While a lot of scientists are busy looking for the ‘big stuff’ and trying to figure out how planets, stars, or black holes work, there is still a lot more to learn here on Earth. And even further, a perfect place to explore is our own human body. Although it could be seen only under the microscope, the neuron is a very complex structure that needs close investigation. Also known as the brain cell, it can store information and hand it over to another neuron, forming a synapse.
But how a single thought forms into the neuron is pretty much still a mystery in science. Maybe it’s formed somewhere else? Until we ever find some irrefutable answers, there’s worth knowing that other microscopic structures can also behave like neurons: bacterial biofilms.
Scientists used light for imprinting memory on bacteria biofilm
After a group of scientists from the University of California (UC), San Diego, have used light for imprinting memory on a bacterial biofilm, they discovered something astonishing: the microbes acted very similarly to neurons.
UC San Diego molecular biologist Gürol Süel declared the following: “Our work shows for the first time that simple bacteria can encode memory at the level of their cellular membrane potential, which is similar to the memory process of neurons in the brain. We were surprised to find that the mechanism by which the memory is formed, is similar between bacteria and neurons since these are evolutionary very distant systems.”
The team of researchers looked at grass bacillus (Bacillus subtilis), which is a simple bacterial species. The scientists gave these structures a blast of blue light for five seconds. The outcome was shocking: a change occurred in the membrane potential. Ions constantly began flooding out of the cell, and then back in again. This effect remained for several hours after the exposure to light.
The new research has been published in Cell Systems.