Microorganism movement revealed with high-speed camera

Share this on social media:

With the aid of a high-speed and high-sensitivity camera, biologists at the University of Regensburg have recorded the movement of a type of microorganism called Archaea.

Archaea thrive at temperatures between 80°C and 100°C and, to study live cells and understand how they move, the scientists at the department of microbiology designed a thermal microscope where the mechanical stage can be heated to 95°C. A fluorescent dye was used to visualise the cell flagella responsible for movement.

The Archaea species Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus studied only emits weak fluorescence, so the camera had to be very sensitive. It also had to have a high scanning frequency to be able to follow the fast-swimming microorganisms, which can travel 200 times the length of their body in one second.

Cameras from PCO were used, including the pco.1200 hs which has a frame rate of 100 images per second and is fast enough to continuously film the microorganisms at such speeds. Based on the magnification scale of the microscope it is possible to calculate the distances travelled by the Archaea from one frame to the next.

The microbiologists at the University of Regensburg discovered two ‘swimming styles’. First the microorganisms jet through the water at high speed, travelling long distances in search of a suitable living environment in their biotope. It is assumed that they use the temperature gradient for orientation. Once they have found a suitable location, they slow down swimming at one-tenth of their original speed in zigzag patterns, apparently searching for a place to cling to the wall of the test tube. The team found out that the Archaea use the same organelles for both types of motion as well as for adhesion.

The team’s work is purely basic research, according to Professor Reinhard Wirth, who led the study. Nevertheless, there are aspects that could be economically valuable – the adhesive used by the Archaea to hold onto surfaces, for example, remains sticky even in boiling water, which is a property with potential for many technical applications, such as gluing silicon in microchips that become hot during operation.

Recent News

29 July 2020

The Perseverance rover contains 19 cameras, including seven scientific instruments. It will analyse the climate and geology of Mars, looking for signs of past life, as well as monitoring the Martian atmosphere

02 July 2020

Norwegian seafood firm, Lerøy, has installed hyperspectral cameras on processing lines to sort fish. The system is able to measure the amount of blood in white fish, which gives a grade of quality

09 June 2020

Hyperspectral imaging is being used in a research programme at hospitals in Maryland and New York to investigate the prognostic value of skin findings associated with Covid-19 infection

27 May 2020

The composite picture of The Night Watch, made of 528 exposures stitched together digitally, makes it possible to zoom in on individual brushstrokes and even particles of pigment in the painting