Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

X-Ray Beams and Fruit Fly "Flight Simulator" Show Muscle Power

15.02.2005


What is the connection between a fly’s aerodynamic skill and human heart function? Using the nation’s most brilliant X-rays, located at the Advanced Photon Source at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, a cardiac molecular motors expert from the University of Vermont (UVM) and colleagues from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and Caltech performed research to answer that and other questions.

The research team, including David Maughan, Ph.D., research professor of molecular physiology and biophysics at the UVM College of Medicine, published their results in a report in the Jan. 20 issue of the British journal Nature.

To conduct their research, Maughan and his IIT and Caltech colleagues merged extremely bright X-ray beams and a "virtual-reality flight simulator" for flies, designed by Michael Dickinson of Caltech, to probe the muscles in a flying fruit fly and examine how it generates the extraordinary levels of power that result in flight.



The intense X-rays allowed the researchers to identify changes in the crystal-like arrangement of molecules responsible for generating the rapid contractions of the fly’s muscle with a resolution of 6/10,000th of a second. The flight simulator, which fools a tethered fly into thinking it is flying freely through the air, is necessary to produce a stable pattern of wing motion and enabled the team to capture X-ray images at different stages of muscle contraction. By combining the technologies, the researchers could reconstruct a ’movie’ of the molecular changes in the powerful muscles as they lengthen and shorten to drive the wings back and forth 200 times each second. "At the molecular level, the insect’s flight muscle and a human heart are remarkably similar," Maughan said. "We biologists have always been amazed by how hard these muscles work. Now we have taken advantage of the fruit fly’s small size and shone light right through the whole animal, illuminating the working muscles during flight and probing the molecular motions deep within the muscle cells."

These experiments uncovered previously unsuspected interactions of various proteins as the muscles stretch and contract. The results suggest a model for how these powerful biological motors turn "on" and "off" during the wingbeat. "Small flying insects face an enormous task - generating enough power to overcome gravity, air resistance and drag - and they do this by beating their wings ferociously," said Maughan. "We found out that timing is key, where certain molecules have to be positioned exactly with respect to others during each phase of the wing beat in order to produce the high power output."

The researchers note that the many similarities between insect muscle and other oscillatory muscles, including human cardiac muscle, mean that the research may be adaptable for other uses. "Both insect flight and human heart muscles store energy during each beat that is later used to help flap the wings or expand the heart after contraction. We found that flying insects store much of the elastic energy in the protein filaments themselves, which minimizes the power costs," Maughan said.

A previous publication by Maughan and Tom Irving of IIT demonstrated the feasibility of taking movies of molecular changes in live flies. UVM’s Instrument and Model Facility (IMF), directed by Tobey Clark, built a rotating shutter used in the earlier experiment. IMF scientists Carl Silver and Gill Gianetti fabricated the high-speed device. "How the fly’s muscles turn off and on at 200 times a second has been a mystery that we now can solve in detail using these new technologies" Maughan said.

Maughan and his colleagues’ research experiences with genetically malleable fruit flies has increased the potential for addressing much more specific questions about the roles of various protein components in muscle function using mutant or genetically-engineered flies. Currently, Maughan is collaborating with Jim Vigoreaux, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at UVM, and Doug Swank of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, to determine what parts of the flight muscle proteins are responsible for the high speed.

Collaborators on the X-ray project, in addition to Dickinson and Maughan, are Gerrie Farman, Tanya Bekyarova and David Gore of IIT, and Mark Frye of Caltech.

| newswise
Further information:
http://www.uvm.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Cystic fibrosis alters the structure of mucus in airways
28.06.2017 | University of Iowa Health Care

nachricht Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders
28.06.2017 | University of California - Davis

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>