Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 12th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

08 February 2023

Dancing Bones

While scientists and artists often learn from bringing their disciplines together, sometimes they can stand back and let the science create the art. These microtubules are bendy 'bone-like' protein structures usually found propping up the cell’s cytoskeleton – but inside this wheel-shaped channel, they appear to dance. Adapting their movement to this new environment, they take on a liquid swirl like noodles in a pan (although 10,000 times smaller). This is a striking example of active matter – the microtubules synchronise themselves into waves of movement similar to collective behaviour seen in swarms and shoals elsewhere in nature. Controlling such fluids may be a way to extract energy from their motion, which may open the way to drive tiny motors and engines inside or outside our cells.

Written by John Ankers

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