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Fruit fly larval brain
With over 100 billion neurons, humans are capable of impossibly intricate behaviors. Fruit flies, on the other hand, have 100,000 neurons—a mere 0.0001% of what we possess. Robot makers turn to fruit flies to understand how a system with “low computational power” can execute sophisticated “commands,” such as honing in on a food source in a chaotic environment. Using their antennae, fruit flies detect odors arising from food, but the odor plume is chaotically dispersed by wind. How do flies know precisely where to land? Researchers at the University of Washington demonstrated that after sensing an odor, fruit flies visually search for round, high-contrast objects as potential odor sources. If it’s inedible, flies move on to the next object. Understanding how fruit flies use these simple cues could aid in designing programs for controlling robots of the future.
Image by Christian Klämbt, University of Muenster, Germany.

Fruit fly larval brain

With over 100 billion neurons, humans are capable of impossibly intricate behaviors. Fruit flies, on the other hand, have 100,000 neurons—a mere 0.0001% of what we possess. Robot makers turn to fruit flies to understand how a system with “low computational power” can execute sophisticated “commands,” such as honing in on a food source in a chaotic environment. Using their antennae, fruit flies detect odors arising from food, but the odor plume is chaotically dispersed by wind. How do flies know precisely where to land? Researchers at the University of Washington demonstrated that after sensing an odor, fruit flies visually search for round, high-contrast objects as potential odor sources. If it’s inedible, flies move on to the next object. Understanding how fruit flies use these simple cues could aid in designing programs for controlling robots of the future.

Image by Christian Klämbt, University of Muenster, Germany.

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This is a user submitted image!
Trabecular meshwork of a pig’s eye
The trabecular meshwork of the eye acts as a filter located behind the cornea. Behind the cornea is fluid to protect the eye from dust, wind, and other disturbances. We need this fluid for proper eye function, and it needs to be properly drained to prevent unwanted build-up. The trabecular meshwork makes this possible. When it cannot function properly, a disease called glaucoma results. The vision loss associated with glaucoma occurs when the fluid pressure in the cornea causes damage to the optic nerve, the nerve responsible for sending “sight” messages to the brain.
Image by Carmen Laethem, Aerie Pharmaceuticals, USA.

Trabecular meshwork of a pig’s eye

The trabecular meshwork of the eye acts as a filter located behind the cornea. Behind the cornea is fluid to protect the eye from dust, wind, and other disturbances. We need this fluid for proper eye function, and it needs to be properly drained to prevent unwanted build-up. The trabecular meshwork makes this possible. When it cannot function properly, a disease called glaucoma results. The vision loss associated with glaucoma occurs when the fluid pressure in the cornea causes damage to the optic nerve, the nerve responsible for sending “sight” messages to the brain.

Image by Carmen Laethem, Aerie Pharmaceuticals, USA.

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This is a user submitted image!
Crystallized sulfur
Known to be behind the characteristic odor of rotting eggs, sulfur is essential for all living cells. Cells make proteins that form strong chemical bonds called disulfide bridges between two adjacent sulfur atoms. These bridges give strength to our hair, outer skin, and nails. Eggs are loaded with sulfur because disulfide bridges are needed to form feathers, which explains why eggs smell on rotting. Because sulfur is easy to smell, natural gas lines—which are normally odorless—have sulfur additives to help people identify and smell a gas leak when it occurs.
Image by Dr. Edward Gafford.

Crystallized sulfur

Known to be behind the characteristic odor of rotting eggs, sulfur is essential for all living cells. Cells make proteins that form strong chemical bonds called disulfide bridges between two adjacent sulfur atoms. These bridges give strength to our hair, outer skin, and nails. Eggs are loaded with sulfur because disulfide bridges are needed to form feathers, which explains why eggs smell on rotting. Because sulfur is easy to smell, natural gas lines—which are normally odorless—have sulfur additives to help people identify and smell a gas leak when it occurs.

Image by Dr. Edward Gafford.

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This is a user submitted image!
Inner ear of a mouse
One of the most common genetic defects in human deafness is the disappearance of an important family of proteins: the claudins. Claudins are the most critical component of tight junctions (shown here in blue), the place where two adjacent cells meet. Imagine a tight circle of people linking arms to protect what’s inside; tight junctions are what protect a tissue from unwanted molecules or cells trying to pass through. When mice cannot make claudin, the tight junctions in the cochlea (the spiral-shaped portion of the inner ear) are disrupted, robbing them of their hearing sensitivity.
Image by Dr. Alexander Gow and Cherie Southwood, Wayne State University.

Inner ear of a mouse

One of the most common genetic defects in human deafness is the disappearance of an important family of proteins: the claudins. Claudins are the most critical component of tight junctions (shown here in blue), the place where two adjacent cells meet. Imagine a tight circle of people linking arms to protect what’s inside; tight junctions are what protect a tissue from unwanted molecules or cells trying to pass through. When mice cannot make claudin, the tight junctions in the cochlea (the spiral-shaped portion of the inner ear) are disrupted, robbing them of their hearing sensitivity.

Image by Dr. Alexander Gow and Cherie Southwood, Wayne State University.

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Crystallized vitamin C
Anyone who has played Oregon Trail can attest to the many trailblazers who suddenly perished from scurvy, a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C. Symptoms of advanced scurvy include pus-filled wounds, teeth loss, spongy gums, and bleeding mucous membranes. Nasty stuff. So what happens in patients with scurvy? Without vitamin C, the body has trouble making stabilized collagen, a protein found in the connective tissues of mammals. Loose tissue prevents wound healing and disrupts tissue integrity, leading to infection if left untreated. While scurvy is less prevalent today, it remains a very real threat to health wherever malnutrition exists, especially in impoverished and underdeveloped countries.
Image by Raul Gonzalez.

Crystallized vitamin C

Anyone who has played Oregon Trail can attest to the many trailblazers who suddenly perished from scurvy, a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C. Symptoms of advanced scurvy include pus-filled wounds, teeth loss, spongy gums, and bleeding mucous membranes. Nasty stuff. So what happens in patients with scurvy? Without vitamin C, the body has trouble making stabilized collagen, a protein found in the connective tissues of mammals. Loose tissue prevents wound healing and disrupts tissue integrity, leading to infection if left untreated. While scurvy is less prevalent today, it remains a very real threat to health wherever malnutrition exists, especially in impoverished and underdeveloped countries.

Image by Raul Gonzalez.

728 notes
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Vorticella sp.
Vorticella are microscopic inverted bell-shaped cells that attach to surfaces with a long stalk, swaying precariously in their environment. If a Vorticella is touched, it contracts at more than 100 times its length per second thanks to its myoneme, a tightly coiled fiber inside the Vorticella stalk. This “duck and cover” mechanism allows Vorticella to evade potential predators, only peeking out and uncoiling to check for safety after several seconds.
Image by Frank Fox.

Vorticella sp.

Vorticella are microscopic inverted bell-shaped cells that attach to surfaces with a long stalk, swaying precariously in their environment. If a Vorticella is touched, it contracts at more than 100 times its length per second thanks to its myoneme, a tightly coiled fiber inside the Vorticella stalk. This “duck and cover” mechanism allows Vorticella to evade potential predators, only peeking out and uncoiling to check for safety after several seconds.

Image by Frank Fox.

936 notes