Sanchez and colleagues found that under a particular set of conditions these very simple components spontaneously organize into active bundles that beat in a periodic manner.
In addition to observing the beating of isolated bundles, the researchers were also able to assemble a dense field of bundles that spontaneously synchronized their beating patterns into traveling waves.
Self-organizing processes of many kinds have recently become a focus of the physics community. These processes range in scale from microscopic cellular functions and swarms of bacteria to macroscopic phenomena such as flocking of birds and traffic jams. Since controllable experiments with birds, crowds at football stadiums and traffic are virtually impossible to conduct, the experiments described by Sanchez and colleagues could serve as a model for testing a broad range of theoretical predictions.
In addition, the reproduction of such an essential biological functionality in a simple system will be of great interest to the fields of cellular and evolutionary biology, Dogic says. The findings also open a door for the development of one of the major goals of nanotechnology to design an object that's capable of swimming independently.
The Dogic lab is currently planning refinements to the system to study these topics in greater depth.
|Contact: Susan Chaityn Lebovits|