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Bacteria can use electricity to communicate, like neurons

Bacteria can use electricity to communicate, like neurons

The bacteria they communicate through various types of signals. Despite being single-celled beings, we would make a mistake if we called them primitiveWell, they are not at all.

Being single-celled leads us to mistakenly believe that bacteria communicate thanks to ancient mechanisms, very different from those used by the cells of any larger or multicellular organism, as we humans might well be.

However, in various studies bacteria have shown that they can communicate with each other and synchronize their behavior to exchange nutrients, protect each other, or even commit suicide for the good of the group if necessary. Such communication seemed to occur only by primitive molecules, but it is not. LBacteria communicate by electrical impulsesjust like human neurons do.

Bacteria communicate with electrical impulses, just like neurons

At least that is the conclusion that the researchers of the University of California San Diego, whose work has recently been published in Nature from the hand of Grol Sel. According to these scientists, the bacteria communicate through the exchange of molecules, but they would also use electrical impulses, a mechanism that until now is believed that only multicellular organisms could do.

Already in 2010 this molecular biologist studied a bacterium, the Bacillus subtilis, which could grow in giant communities of a million individuals and still survive. Apparently, when the bacterial community reaches a certain size, the peripheral bacteria stop reproducing and leave the central cells with sufficient nutrients.

And here came the question: how do bacteria communicate to order this arrest in cell division, being so much distance from each other?

Bacteria communicate like neurons if they are far away, with electricity

Thanks to this observation, the great distance between central bacteria and peripheral bacteria, Sel decided to carry out the current experiment: Bacteria communicate thanks to a molecular exchange when they are next to each other (or so they taught us in biology in school), but if there are great distances, the communication becomes by means of electrical impulses using cellular ion channels, which expel substances out of the bacteria (and receive them, too).

These channels use ions, substances that provide electric load bacteria, as if we were talking about a battery. If the load is changed, the message changes, and may in turn cause the bacteria to also release ions in response to other neighboring bacteria; and so on, the electrical impulse will go from bacteria to bacteria.

This type of communication is not new, far from it. The human brain uses that same type of communication, neurons use these ions to communicate messages to each other over long distances: Information is chemical. The finding is not that, the finding is that this type of communication can also be done by bacteria. Being unicellular does not mean being alone, since the synchronization between bacteria is much more complex than you might expect.

Going | Scientific American.