The key to discovering the connection between oxygen and the molting cycle came from Kirkton's use of the phase-contrast beamline at sector 32 of the APS. That high-resolution imaging, rapid snapshot-like data collection and the ability to look deeply into material, created a unique ability to visualize and quantify the functioning respiratory system of an intact living insect in real time.
Kirkton published recently in the Journal of Comparative Physiology, his look at the respiratory system of the American grasshopper during periods right before molting. While Kirkton says that more research needs to be done, he thinks that this finding is applicable to a wide-range of insects, which means a universal and chemical-free pest control method may be on its way.
Although few gym rats want to admit it, whispery moth wings and bulging human biceps aren't that different. What we learn from them can teach us more about human muscle mechanics to potentially improve physical therapy treatments and further understand diseases attacking the muscular system.
But logistically, looking at the protein structures within a moth's muscle cells is no easy task. The experiment setup involved gluing a moth by its thorax to a support structure, attaching a series of electrodes to its flight muscles to trigger its wings to beat at a rapid pace, and then using one of the world's most powerful light sources to examine the molecular structure of its muscle movement in real time. The results shed light on more than the mechanics of moth flight it may redefine our understanding of how our own muscles function.
To conduct this research, Tom Daniel, professor of biology at the University of Washington and author of a study in Science that examined the cross bridge cycling in the muscles of
|Contact: Tona Kunz|
DOE/Argonne National Laboratory