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Aquatic microorganism motility could inspire new soft robots

20 February 2019
New research published in Nature Physics

Euglena cells are unicellular organisms that spend most of their time doing what most of their peers do: swim by beating their flagellum. However, on occasions, Euglena cells perform harmoniously coordinated, large amplitude cell body deformation, in a behavior known as metaboly. The reason why these cells engage in repetitions of this elegant gymnastics remains a mystery. Writing in Nature Physics, a team of researchers from SISSA and OGS in Trieste, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, and UPC in Barcelona show that metaboly allows Euglena to crawl remarkably fast in narrow spaces. This feature could be a source of inspiration for new engineering application in the cutting edge area of soft robotics.