UVA researchers may have solved mystery of how E. coli, other bacteria move

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 4:23 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Researchers with the University of Virginia School of Medicine are working to solve a decades-old mystery concerning how E. coli and other bacteria are able to move.

Understanding how bacteria swim can help the future of medical technology.

“It’ll give us new insights into let’s say, nanotechnology. If we want to build miniature devices that can swim like in our bloodstream,” Professor Edward Egleman said.

Prof. Egelman says most bacteria developed the ability to swim with flagella.

“These are filaments that rotate while they form this corkscrew shape, and it’s that corkscrew that acts as a helical propeller,” the professor said.

After looking at different organisms, researchers say they found this corkscrew shape was formed independently.

“So just as birds, bats, and bees all have wings, they developed independently as organs for flight,” Egleman said. “What we show is that these proteins that arose independently in archaea and bacteria converged on a similar structure independently, which is very remarkable.”

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