Knowledge of the mechanical properties of the human erythrocyte infected with Plasmodium falciparum is an important step in the strategy of seeking alternative treatments against malaria. We currently model a healthy red blood cell in silico using engineering tools and compare our modeling with laboratory results.
To perform the computational modeling we use ANSYS, a software based on the finite element method. The model requires as input parameters the mechanical characterization of the material, which, in our case, is the cell. Basically, the required parameters are the Poisson coefficient and the modulus of elasticity (or Young’s modulus).
We performed experiments to obtain them by applying forces (by electric field) to samples of healthy and infected erythrocytes and with this we determined their modulus of elasticity. After obtaining this value, we feed the software and different force ranges are applied to observe the stresses, deformations and displacements that occur in the erythrocyte model. Soon we will be able to validate our measurements again, using optical tweezers in INDICASAT AIP.
Doriana is a biologist that has dabbled into engineering. Our fantastic engineer collaborators, Dr. Maytee Zambrano, Carlos Plazaola and Dr. Guadalupe González from the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá have made possible this training for her. She now has a privileged perspective of how the two disciplines should be talking to each other. After finishing her bachellor’s training, she will pursue that objective in her doctoral training. For now, she will be handling the Optical Tweezers of INDICASAT.