Washington, Sep 26 (ANI): In a first-of-its-kind discovery, Yale engineers have observed and tracked E. coli bacteria moving in a liquid medium with a motion similar to that of a kayak paddle.
The results of the study would help lead to a better understanding of how bacteria move from place to place and, potentially, how to keep them from spreading.
Scientists have long theorized that the cigar-shaped cell bodies of E. coli and other microorganisms would follow periodic orbits that resemble the motion of a kayak paddle as they drift downstream in a current.
However, no one had managed to directly observe or track those movements, until now.
Hur Koser previously discovered that hydrodynamic interactions between the bacteria and the current align them in a way that allows them to swim upstream.
"They find the most efficient route to migrate upstream, and we ultimately want to understand the mechanism that allows them to do that," said Koser.
In the new study, the researchers devised a method to see this motion in progress.
They used advanced computer and imaging technology, along with sophisticated new algorithms, that allowed them to take millions of high-resolution images of tens of thousands of individual, non-flagellated E. coli drifting in a water and glycerin solution, which amplified the bacteria's paddle-like movements.
They characterized the bacteria's motion as a function of both their length and distance from the surface.
It was found that the longer and closer to the surface they were, the slower the E. coli "paddled."
It took the engineers months to perfect the intricate camera and computer system that allowed them to take 60 to 100 sequential images per second, then automatically and efficiently analyse the huge amount of resulting data.
"Understanding the physics of bacterial movement could potentially lead to breakthroughs in the prevention of bacterial migration and sickness," said Koser.
The study has been published online in the journal Physical Review Letters. (ANI)