Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Paramecia Adapt Their Swimming to Changing Gravitational Force

20.09.2006
Using a high-powered electromagnet, Brown University physicists Karine Guevorkian and James Valles have created a topsy-turvy world for the single-celled paramecium. They have managed to increase, eliminate and even reverse the effects of gravity on the tiny protozoan, changing its swimming behavior and indirectly measuring its swimming force.

For many single-celled organisms living in water, the force is always against them. The classic example is the slipper-shaped paramecium, which consistently swims harder going up than going down, just to keep from sinking. Now physicists Karine Guevorkian and James Valles of Brown University have worked out a way to turn gravity on its head and see how the creatures respond.

The researchers placed a vial with pond water and live paramecia inside a high-powered electromagnet at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Fla. The organisms are less susceptible to a magnetic field than plain water is, so the magnetic field generated inside the vial “pulls” harder on the water than on the cells. If the field is pulling down, the cells float. If it’s pulling up, they sink.

Using water alone, Valles and Guevorkian were able to increase the effect of gravity by about 50 percent. To increase the effect even further, they added a compound called Gadolinium-diethylene-triamine-pentaacetate (Gd-DTPA) to the water. Gd-DPTA is highly susceptible to induced magnetic fields such as those generated in electromagnets. This allowed the researchers to make the water much “heavier” or “lighter,” relative to the paramecia, achieving an effect up to 10 times that of normal gravity. The magnetic field is continuously adjustable, so Valles and Guevorkian were also able to create conditions simulating zero-gravity and inverse-gravity.

By dialing the magnetic field up or down, the researchers could change the swimming behavior of the paramecia dramatically. In high gravity, the organisms swam upward mightily to maintain their place in the water column. In zero gravity, they swam up and down equally. And in reverse gravity, they dove for where the sediments ought to be.

“If you want to make something float more,” said Valles, “you put it in a fluid and you pull the fluid down harder than you pull the thing down. And that’s what we basically do with the magnet. That causes the cell to float more – and that turns gravity upside down for the cell.”

Cranking the field intensity even higher, Valles and Guevorkian could test the limits of protozoan endurance. At about eight times normal gravity, the little swimmers stalled, swimming upward, but making no progress. At this break-even point, the physicists could measure the force needed to counter the gravitational effect: 0.7 nano-Newtons. For comparison, the force required to press a key on a computer keyboard is about 22 Newtons or more than 3 billion times as strong.

Space-based research has demonstrated many puzzling biological effects related to reduced gravity, such as changes in bone cell development and gene expression. But methods for manipulating gravity in the Earth-based laboratory have been few and troublesome, hindering further research in these areas. This new method will allow researchers to subject small biological systems to gravitational effects similar to those encountered in space, allowing less expensive and more complex experiments on the biological response to altered gravity.

Valles is professor of physics at Brown University. Guevorkian, who recently received her Ph.D. at Brown, has accepted a postdoctoral position at Institut Curie in Paris. Their work on paramecia and the effects of gravity was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Marty Downs | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu/Administration/News_Bureau/2006-07/06-024.html
http://www.brown.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing
21.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows
21.11.2017 | US Geological Survey

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

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....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

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...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

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...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond

21.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>