Microbes May Be More Networked Than You Are
Posted by keelynet on June 27, 2009
This reminded me of Star Wars and the mysterious controlling midichlorians…
“A few years ago, microbiologist Gemma Reguera of Michigan State University reported that a certain type of bacteria could use rust to grow electrically conductive appendages. Shortly thereafter, my lab showed that many more bacterial species also had the ability to grow nanowires.
The oxygen-making cyanobacteria that “invented” photosynthesis produce conductive nanowires in response to limited amounts of carbon dioxide. Heat-loving, methane-producing consortia of microorganisms even appear to produce nanowires that connect organisms from separate domains of life.
We are slowly, yet steadily, realizing that many (perhaps most?) bacteria produce nanowires. And the extracellular structures connecting bacterial cells into complex integrated communities create a pattern that looks suspiciously like a neural network.
I believe we now stand at the edge of a new scientific frontier. One of the most exciting hypotheses concerning bacterial nanowires is the possibility that they are part of another type of primitive (or advanced?) communication system. When one considers that individual cells — each with their own set integrated of metabolic reactions — are connected by electrically conductive filaments, this hypothesis is quite reasonable. The rate or frequency of electron transfer from one organism to another could reasonably serve a form of communication. Demonstrating that bacteria can communicate using integrated neurobiological circuitry will be no easy feat, but success in this pursuit will fundamentally change our understanding of microbial physiology and ecology. Scientists in my lab and others are still characterizing these tiny electrical appendages. We know that nanowires are composed largely of protein, but the type of proteins appears to vary from organism to organism. They can grow to be more than ten times the length of a typical bacterium and are typically 8 to 10 nanometers in diameter. Long wires like this could be used as a kind of breathing tube. The evidence suggests that nanowires can transfer electrons over distances ten times the length of an individual cell. This would allow cells to access an energy source that is relatively far away from them, but it’s still unclear whether the nanowires can be used this way.” – Source
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.