Science News
from research organizations

The stupidly effective genius of nature: Researchers discover how nature enables cells to act intelligently

Date:
May 12, 2015
Source:
Institute for Basic Science
Summary:
Researchers have discovered a Lévy walk pattern of movement when living cells eat. When the food is transported within the cell by so-called endosomal active transport, it is the same mathematical pattern of movement that many animals follow when foraging for food. A Lévy walk or flight, named after a French mathematician Paul Lévy, is a mix of long trajectories and short random movements. Numerous short movements are made within a small area, and occasionally a long stride to a distant area, where the action is repeated. This particular motion pattern is observed in humans and animals.
Share:
FULL STORY

Trajectories of endosomes in live cells.
Credit: Image courtesy of Institute for Basic Science

Researchers at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) have discovered a Lévy walk pattern of movement when living cells eat. When the food is transported within the cell by so-called endosomal active transport, it is the same mathematical pattern of movement that many animals follow when foraging for food.

A Lévy walk or flight, named after a French mathematician Paul Lévy, is a mix of long trajectories and short random movements. Numerous short movements are made within a small area, and occasionally a long stride to a distant area, where the action is repeated. This particular motion pattern is observed in humans and animals.

While scientists had previously studied the pattern in humans and animals of inherent intelligence, this research is the first to identify this pattern of movement in molecular motors.

Steve Granick, Director of the IBS Center for Soft and Living Matter and one of the authors of the research, explained why it's so interesting and important. "We didn't want to repeat what other people did in the past. People knew that jellyfish, sharks, birds, and people can execute this important process (Lévy walk). We discovered that even molecules without a brain can do the same thing. And we discovered the secret of how it's accomplished."

Molecular motors are responsible for the intracellular transport of many cargoes. The researchers observed how these motors carry cargo (endosome) as they move along microtubules, an intracellular highway network.

The rule they discovered is this. When molecular motors carry cargo, their purpose is to find a destination. They thoroughly explore their immediate environment. If a destination is not found, they travel further, repeating the action until a destination is found. "Nature is more clever than we are. It finds this efficient way to engineer this marvelous result without being smart, without (using any pre-existing) memory, and it saves them energy" added Director Granick.

"The findings of our study may help us to better understand our cells and how our body is engineered" he went on. "At the IBS Center for Soft and Living Matter in Korea, the rule we discovered holds promise to engineer new kinds of artificial active materials."

The research was supported in part by the Institute for Basic Science (South Korea) and the US Department of Energy in collaboration with the University of Illinois. It was published online in the journal Nature Materials.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Institute for Basic Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kejia Chen, BoWang and Steve Granick. Memoryless self-reinforcing directionality in endosomal active transport within living cells. Nature Materials, March 2015 DOI: 10.1038/nmat4239

Cite This Page:

Institute for Basic Science. "The stupidly effective genius of nature: Researchers discover how nature enables cells to act intelligently." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 May 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150512075110.htm>.
Institute for Basic Science. (2015, May 12). The stupidly effective genius of nature: Researchers discover how nature enables cells to act intelligently. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150512075110.htm
Institute for Basic Science. "The stupidly effective genius of nature: Researchers discover how nature enables cells to act intelligently." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150512075110.htm (accessed May 24, 2017).

RELATED STORIES