Michael Leibowitz, M.D., Ph.D.
Our lab is studying the interaction of malarial parasites with mammalian endothelial cells. The endothelial cell binding by red blood cells infected with Plasmodium falciparum plays a major role in the pathogenesis of severe and cerebral malaria, which are responsible for the high mortality of this infection. In the malarias infecting birds and reptiles, plasmodium parasites can invade, replicate and persist in endothelial cells. However, no such process has been demonstrated to date in any mammalian malaria infections. We have recently found parasite-like bodies bound to Human Umbilical Vein Epithelial Cell (HUVEC) cultures exposed to red blood cells infected with P. falciparum. The biological significance of this finding is currently under investigation.