Brandeis University lab scientists have created artificial cilia, small hair-like structures that execute functions such as identifying the exact spot of organs during their development and removing microscopic waste from the lungs, to study its beating patterns.
The research team comprising Zvonimir Dogic and his support staff has published the details of its first simple microscopic system, which self-assembles to generate beating patterns similar to that of cilia, in the Science journal.
According to Dogic, the creation of cilia-like biological functionality by a simple system is a major breakthrough in the fields of evolutionary and cellular biology. In order to study the beating pattern, the team used a bottom-up approach that is building a complex pattern from single cilium, he added. Each cilium has a complex structure as it comprises over 600 various proteins. In earlier studies on beating patterns of cilia, researchers deconstructed the completely working structures by eliminating the individual components systematically.
The experimental system had three major components including a bundling agent, kinesin and microtubule filaments. The bundling agent stimulates assemblage of filaments into bundles and motor protein kinesin use chemical fuel to travel across micro tubes. Microtubule filaments are small hollow cylinders that can be identified in both plant and animal cells. The research team observed that under specific conditions the system’s components assembled automatically into active bundles that beat periodically.
The findings of the study pave way to develop an object with a capability of swimming independently, which is one of the key objectives of nanotechnology. At present, the research team is planning to improve the system to further study these topics.