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Multiparametric biophysical profiling of red blood cells in malaria infection.


Biophysical separation promises label-free, less-invasive methods to manipulate the diverse properties of live cells, such as density, magnetic susceptibility, and morphological characteristics. However, some cellular changes are so minute that they are undetectable by current methods. We developed a multiparametric cell-separation approach to profile cells with simultaneously changing density and magnetic susceptibility. We demonstrated this approach with the natural biophysical phenomenon of Plasmodium falciparum infection, which modifies its host erythrocyte by simultaneously decreasing density and increasing magnetic susceptibility. Current approaches have used these properties separately to isolate later-stage infected cells, but not in combination. We present biophysical separation of infected erythrocytes by balancing gravitational and magnetic forces to differentiate infected cell stages, including early stages for the first time, using magnetic levitation. We quantified height distributions of erythrocyte populations-27 ring-stage synchronized samples and 35 uninfected controls-and quantified their unique biophysical signatures. This platform can thus enable multidimensional biophysical measurements on unique cell types.

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