Nav: Home

A simple way to control swarming molecular machines

October 08, 2019

The swarming behavior of about 100 million molecular machines can be controlled by applying simple mechanical stimuli such as extension and contraction. This method could lead to the development of new swarming molecular machines and small energy-saving devices.

The swarming molecules in motion aligned in one direction, exhibited zigzag patterns, or formed a vortex responding to varying mechanical stimuli. They could even self-repair the moving pattern after a disruption, according to a study led by Hokkaido University scientists.

In recent years, many scientists have made efforts to miniaturize machines found in the macroscopic world. The 2016 Nobel laureates in chemistry were awarded for their outstanding research on molecular machines and design and synthesis of nanomachines.

In previous studies, the research team led by Associate Professor Akira Kakugo of Hokkaido University developed molecular machines consisting of motor proteins called kinesins and microtubules, which showed various swarming behaviors. "Swarming is a key concept in modern robotics. It gives molecular machines new properties such as robustness and flexibility that an individual machine cannot have," says Akira Kakugo. "However, establishing a methodology for controlling swarming behaviors has been a challenge."

In the current study published in ACS Nano, the team used the same system comprising motor protein kinesins and microtubules, both bioengineered. The kinesins are fixed on an elastomer substrate surface, and the microtubules are self-propelled on the kinesins, powered by the hydrolysis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

"Since we know that applying mechanical stress can play a key role in pattern formation for active matters, we investigated how deformation of the elastomer substrate influences the swarming patterns of molecular machines," says Akira Kakugo.

By extending and contracting the elastomer substrate, mechanical stimulation is applied to about 100 million microtubules that run on the substrate surface. The researchers first found that microtubules form wave patterns when no stress is applied. When the substrate is expanded and contracted 1.3 times or more one time, almost all of the 100 million microtubules perpendicularly aligned to the expansion and contraction axis, and when the substrate is expanded and contracted 1.3 times or less repeatably, it created zigzag patterns placed in diagonal directions.

Their computer simulation suggested that the orientation angles of microtubules correspond to the direction to attain smooth movement without buckling, which is further amplified by the collective migration of the microtubules.

Another important finding was that the moving pattern of microtubules can be modulated by applying new mechanical stimuli and it can be self-repaired even if the microtubule arrangement is disturbed by scratching a part of it.

"Our findings may contribute to the development of new molecular machines that perform collective motion and could also help advance technologies for energy-saving small devices," Akira Kakugo commented.
-end-
This study was conducted in collaboration with scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Gifu University, and Columbia University.

Hokkaido University

Related Stress Articles:

Red light for stress
Researchers from the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo have created a biphasic luminescent material that changes color when exposed to mechanical stress.
How do our cells respond to stress?
Molecular biologists reverse-engineer a complex cellular structure that is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS
How stress remodels the brain
Stress restructures the brain by halting the production of crucial ion channel proteins, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.
Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.
How plants handle stress
Plants get stressed too. Drought or too much salt disrupt their physiology.
Stress in the powerhouse of the cell
University of Freiburg researchers discover a new principle -- how cells protect themselves from mitochondrial defects.
Measuring stress around cells
Tissues and organs in the human body are shaped through forces generated by cells, that push and pull, to ''sculpt'' biological structures.
Cellular stress at the movies
For the first time, biological imaging experts have used a custom fluorescence microscope and a novel antibody tagging tool to watch living cells undergoing stress.
Maternal stress at conception linked to children's stress response at age 11
A new study published in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease finds that mothers' stress levels at the moment they conceive their children are linked to the way children respond to life challenges at age 11.
A new way to see stress -- using supercomputers
Supercomputer simulations show that at the atomic level, material stress doesn't behave symmetrically.
More Stress News and Stress Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Our Relationship With Water
We need water to live. But with rising seas and so many lacking clean water – water is in crisis and so are we. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around restoring our relationship with water. Guests on the show include legal scholar Kelsey Leonard, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, and community organizer Colette Pichon Battle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#569 Facing Fear
What do you fear? I mean really fear? Well, ok, maybe right now that's tough. We're living in a new age and definition of fear. But what do we do about it? Eva Holland has faced her fears, including trauma and phobia. She lived to tell the tale and write a book: "Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Uncounted
First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all. Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote. Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it's not a state, and it wasn't until the 23rd Amendment that its people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role. Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further? This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari. Check out Latif Nasser's new Netflix show Connected here. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.