December 13, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

One-Celled Organism’s Spring Generates Enormous Forces

The pioneering Dutch microscopist Antony van Leeuwenhoek marveled at the miniature “animalcules” he witnessed darting through the water and spinning like a top.  One such marvelous protozoan was Vorticella.  The way it rapidly contracted and expanded on its little stalk must have reminded Leeuwenhoek of a spring.  It turns out, it is a spring – a remarkable motorized spring made of molecules that generates “enormous forces,” according to a report on EurekAlert.  In fact, this little spring sets the speed and power record for cellular nanomachines.
    Researchers presenting their findings at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology likened the spring to a stretched telephone cord that recoils rapidly – so rapidly, in fact, that size for size, it outperforms human muscles and car engines.  The secret is a bundle of contractile fibers called the “spasmoneme” running through the center of the stalk.  The researchers looked “under the hood” and found a calcium-fueled engine that uses spasmin, a protein in the centrin family.  The exact mechanism of this engine is poorly understood, but scientists hope that by learning about it they can some day build nanomolecular machines of exquisite power and efficiency.

For a stark illustration of the unbelievable schizophrenia of today’s biologists, read this story – marveling at the design and complexity of this little machine, just one of thousands being discovered in the simplest and smallest of organisms – and then go to the ASCB Public Policy website where the society encourages its members to sign petitions, write letters and in every way possible fight the idea of intelligent design.

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