Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Vicious Circles
21 January 2013

Vicious Circles

A third of the world’s population has the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) living inside them. Infestation by these simple organisms (usually from eating infected meat) can cause serious problems during pregnancy. Here T. gondii has been genetically-modified to glow in a dish, allowing us to see how they might travel around inside our bodies. Their swirling traces were captured by microscope, similar to how a night-time video captures the trail of light from the tip of a sparkler. While it may look a little chaotic, this picture shows three distinct types of movement. The parasites (each cell is a white dot 400 times smaller than a glowing match head) are either spiralling, looping-the-loop, or twirling in star-like patterns. However pretty they are, watching these parasitic patterns could also guide the design of more effective drugs to stop future invasions in their elegant tracks.

Written by John Ankers

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