What is Lyme disease?
|The red spot caused by a tick|
When you get bitten by a tick that carries Lyme disease, you develop a big red spot around the place you’ve been bitten. Shortly after that, the disease cause all kinds of symptoms all over your body; headaches, stomach aches, muscles soreness and other undesirable things. Because the symptoms appear quite soon after you’ve been bitten by a tick, usually a couple of weeks, the disease spreads incredibly fast through your body. The disease can do that because the Lyme bacteria, that cause the disease, can travel through your bloodstream. But how those bacteria could actually do so, remained a mystery for quite a while. But now, Rhodaba Ebady and Tara Moriarty have found out, after closely studying the bacteria moves.
Which way to go?
The weird thing is, the bacteria doesn’t just float away in a blood vessel in the direction blood is flowing in that vessel. The bacteria can also be quite stubborn and actually climb up, against the direction of the blood flow in that blood vessel. Because of this, the Lyme bacteria can spread through your body twice as fast as when the bacteria would just float around. And this also explains how the bacteria, which is called B. burgorferi can affect your whole body so quickly.
|The green and orange stripes are Lyme bacteria, |
the colour us in which stage in
their monkey bar jumping they are.
Bacterial monkey bars…?
To study the odd nature of the spread of B. burgdorferi, researchers built an artificial blood vessel which matched the workings of a normal human blood vessel. A B. burgdorferi was placed into the fake vessel, and then the scientists observed the interactions of the bacteria and the vessel. The way this bacteria works is by attaching itself onto the wall of the vessel. It forms bonds with the wall and undergoes a cycle of breaking and making bonds. By doing so, it acts somewhat like a child swinging on monkey bars. They hold on using two bonds for a period of time. When they let go of one bond, they slingshot themselves forwards and attach themselves to the wall with another bond. By doing this continuously, they can creep through the vessels. This technique is also used by certain human immune cells called leukocytes.
Further use of this technique
Thanks to this study, we are learning more and more about different bacteria. This could help us learn how to cure diseases caused by these bacteria and it could even be mimicked in robotics to move against the flow of blood vessels with little to no problems.
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