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
Studying mitosis' structure to understand the inside of cancer cells
19.02.2018 | Biophysical Society
Calcium may play a role in the development of Parkinson's disease
19.02.2018 | University of Cambridge
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
19.02.2018 | Information Technology
19.02.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
19.02.2018 | Life Sciences