Bacteria are capable of 'standing up' and moving while vertical, researchers have found.
In 2008, UCLA researcher Gerard Wong suggested that an undergraduate bioengineering senior design group that he was advising track the bacterium Shrout was studying.
After some interesting patterns were observed initially, University of Notre Dame researcher Joshua Shrout, collected more data to send to Wong's group and they refined their analysis to allow for identification of very specific patterns by the bacteria, including "walking."
"The analysis methodology developed by Gerard's group made this observation possible. They developed a computer program to analyse time-lapse data series, just like those showing plant development that you watched on PBS as a kid, of bacterial motion on surfaces.
By tracking thousands of bacteria for minutes to hours, the stand-up walking pattern was observed and verified to occur with some frequency," said Shrout.
Apart from being an extraordinary insight into the behaviour of bacteria, the findings have important biomedical implications.
"The significance to medicine is that the bacterium we study, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, causes lung, skin, eye and gastrointestinal infections.
"Such infections are, unfortunately, the leading cause of death for individuals with Cystic Fibrosis. As we learn more about how Pseudomonas aeruginosa colonizes surfaces, perhaps we can develop better methods to treat these infections," added Shrout.
The findings were published in the journal Science.