In the current issue of the journal Cell Reports, Ke Xu and his colleagues at UC Berkeley use the technique to provide a sharp view of the geodesic mesh that supports the outer membrane of a red blood cell, revealing why such cells are sturdy yet flexible enough to squeeze through narrow capillaries as they carry oxygen to our tissues.
The discovery could eventually help uncover how the malaria parasite hijacks this mesh, called the sub-membrane cytoskeleton, when it invades and eventually destroys red blood cells.
“People know that the parasite interacts with the cytoskeleton, but how it does it is unclear because there has been no good way to look at the structure,” said Xu, an assistant professor of chemistry. “Now that we have resolved what is really going on in a normal healthy cell, we can ask what changes under infection with parasites and how drugs affect the interaction.”
More information: Super-Resolution Microscopy Reveals the Native Ultrastructure of the Erythrocyte Cytoskeleton. Cell Reports, DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2017.12.107