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Hemozoin, the detoxification product of hemoglobin heme, piles up as electron-dense material in the food vacuole (FV) of intraerythrocytic malaria parasites (malaria pigment). In infected individuals, pigment is internalized by both circulating and resident phagocytes, thus modulating their functions. Synthetic beta-hematin, prepared in vitro from hematin (ferriprotoporphyrin IX hydroxide) in acidic condition, is spectroscopically identical to hemozoin. In this electron microscopy study, native and synthetic hemozoin also prove to be morphologically indistinguishable (large polygonal crystals with apparent transverse banding) and to undergo the same process when internalized by phagocytes (primarily a direct uptake of crystals, similar to what is described for asbestos fibers). On the contrary, whole parasites appear to follow a classical endocytic pathway. This suggests that there may be differences between the ingestion of free particles and whole parasites in terms of modulation of phagocytes' functions.

Original publication




Journal article


Ultrastructural pathology

Publication Date





9 - 13


UNDP/WorldBank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), Geneva, Switzerland.


Erythrocytes, Monocytes, Cell Line, Macrophages, Animals, Humans, Mice, Plasmodium falciparum, Hemeproteins, Microscopy, Electron, Phagocytosis, Pigments, Biological