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Insight into how biological systems self-organise

15 January 2023

Communication Matters

From flocking birds to swimming bacteria, when life moves together it relies on communication. Amoebae are single-cell organisms that use chemicals to communicate when swarming – here researchers mimic their behaviour using a mathematical model to simulate communicating 'agents' (top left). The virtual agents send and receive signals, creating mock chemical patterns (bottom left) which guide a ‘collective movement’ The exchange of signals helps the agents organise themselves, and the direction of their movement (highlighted in rainbow colours) gradually combine into one swirl. The team also develop a larger scale model of a 'field' of particles (right), watching how similar 'droplets' join together into 'streams'. Predicting how order emerges from disorder in different forms of living active matter may help researchers design microrobots set to tasks inside the body, or to use their insights to disrupt harmful swarms of pathogens.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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