November 10, 2013
Holograms And Malaria Sperm
Not all that long ago, I discussed new advances in holographic technologies, namely in the process of finding ways of making them more cost effective and thus more readily available for common use. The possible applications of hologram technology are many and varied, so much so that I am sure that there are some that most of us would never even consider. Well, recently scientists have found a rather unusual use for this amazing technology; looking at malaria sperm.
No, you heard me correctly. I could not make up something that sounds that crazy, and I consider myself a fairly creative guy. So, just for the sake of it, I am going to say it again; scientists have been using holographic projections to get a closer, more detailed look at malaria sperm. By developing a brand new, innovative 3-D filming method, they have given themselves a brand new look at the much feared parasite. This rather odd sounding achievement of modern science and technology was done by scientists from the University of Edinburgh, as well as from the Rowland Institute at Harvard. Why? In order to help improve our understanding of just how malaria spreads and, hopefully, discover a better way of counteracting this terrible disease. Malaria parasites reproduce inside of mosquitoes, which is then transferred to people when these little insects then feed off of us – the evil little blood-suckers.
So, what did they learn, you ask? They discovered that the malaria sperm use microscopic structures called flagella (the tail of the sperm) to swim around, just like most forms of parasites. This tail is crucial in the development of the parasite’s embryo, its reproduction, and the nutritional uptake in all animals. They also learned that these specific sperm move in an unusual, sideways corkscrew motion, which gives them much greater range of motion than found in most other sperms. The researchers believe that this rather impressive maneuverability is used to swim between the various red blood cells found in the stomach of the host while it is looking for a female egg. This new look at malaria sperm (I am not going to lie; it gets no less weird the more I write it) may also serve as an excellent new model by which the flagella of other animals are studied due to its rather simple design.
Using this new technology, scientists are hopeful that they are able to come to a better understanding of how this terrible and deadly disease reproduces and spreads. To that end, I wish them the best of luck in their research. Mostly, of course, because malaria is terrible and there needs to be a cure for it, but also because the very idea of what they have used this advanced technology for I cannot help but find a little silly sounding. While it is a serious study, and I am well aware of that despite the lightness I am making of it, this does not sound like something you would ever hear in regards to incredible scientific achievements. Landing on the moon, curing cancer, bionic limbs used to restore the human body, of course. Using holograms to look at malaria sperm… less so.
In all seriousness, again, if this development does lead us to a cure for malaria, it will all be worth it in the end.
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