Their findings, which appear in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, have implications for a better understanding of basic locomotion strategies found in biology, and the survival and propagation of the parasite that causes malaria.
Nematodes, which are very small worms, and many other organisms use a snake-like, undulatory motion to propel forward across dry surfaces and through fluids. There are, however, many instances where small organisms must make their way through a fluid-filled environment studded with obstacles that are comparable in size to the swimmers themselves. Nearly all microscopic nematodes, about one millimeter in length, face such barriers when moving through wet soil—the soil’s granules serve as hurdles these creatures must navigate. Similarly, the malaria parasite’s male gametes, or reproductive cells, must swim through a dense suspension of their host's blood cells in order to procreate. A similar situation arises for spermatozoa moving through the reproductive tract.
In the Journal of the Royal Society Interface study, the Applied Math Lab (AML) group sought to understand how efficiently such undulating organisms can move through obstacle-laden fluids. To do so, they conducted a study comparing experiments using live worms, the nematode C. elegans, with the results of a computer model of a worm moving in a virtual environment. In the experiment, the worms swam through a very shallow pool filled with a lattice of obstructing micro-pillars while the computer simulation gave a benchmark of a worm moving blindly without sensing and response.
Surprisingly, C. elegans was able to advance much more quickly through the lattice of obstacles than through a fluid in which their movement was unimpeded.
“If the lattice is neither too tight nor too loose, the worms move much faster by threading between and pushing off the pillars,” the researchers wrote.
The second surprise was that the computer simulation gave very similar results, reproducing the fast motions of the worm in the lattice, but also showing complex “life-like” behaviors that had been interpreted as coming from sensing and response of the worm to its local environment.
These results enhance our understanding of biological locomotion through tortuous environments like soils or the reproductive tract, showing how real organisms can take advantage of what seems a defiant complexity, and offer intriguing insights into how the reproductive processes of dangerous parasites might be interrupted.
The study’s co-authors were: Trushant Majmudar, a post-doctoral fellow; Eric Keaveny, a former post-doctoral fellow who is now a lecturer at Imperial College London; Professor Jun Zhang; and Professor Michael Shelley.
The study was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation.
James Devitt | Newswise Science News
Ambush in a petri dish
24.11.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon
23.11.2017 | Norwegian University of Science and Technology
High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons
The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...
Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine
24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences