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World's Fastest Cells Raced On Petri Dish 61

Posted by timothy
from the stick-timekeeping-duties-to-the-intern dept.
ananyo writes "In a tongue-in-cheek contest of microscopic mobility, a line of bone marrow stem cells from Singapore beat out dozens of competitors to claim the title of the world's fastest cells. They whizzed across a petri dish at the breakneck speed of 5.2 microns per minute — or 0.000000312 kilometers per hour."
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World's Fastest Cells Raced On Petri Dish

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  • Speed demons (Score:5, Insightful)

    by masternerdguy (2468142) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @06:02PM (#38260114)
    Still faster than congress debating a bill.
    • by axlr8or (889713)
      Yeah, but you can't compare apples to oranges. Congressional constituents are considered single celled amoeba. They are just about as likely to eat one another as do anything productive. Marrow cells on the other hand.....
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I think you just insulted yourself by accident.* The constituents of Congress are the voting public.

        * Unless you're from outside the United States, in which case you've insulted America, and the drone missile is already on its way free-of-charge.

    • by Alsee (515537)

      Speed of Congress debating a bill: NaN

      Debating bills went the way of buggy whips. Modern political technology initiates the filibuster simultaneously with the bill's original proposal. Politicians are excited about the recent neutrino results, and the possibility of initiating the filibuster process prior to bill proposal.

      -

    • Still faster than congress debating a bill.

      Every bill that becomes law is that much less freedom. The slower the better.

  • Misleading summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by tpjunkie (911544) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @06:07PM (#38260178) Journal
    They were simply the fastest cells that were among those that were raced; many cells from various species of protists, not to mention sperm cells are capable of faster speeds than that.
    • This just in: Winner of contest actually a contestant - crowd riots ! News at 11 !

    • Indeed, sperm cells from the rhesus macaque have been clocked at over 200 um/sec [ucsd.edu], or 12000 microns/minute, which is 2300 times faster than the 5.2 microns/minute winner in this race.
    • "They were simply the fastest cells that were among those that were raced; many cells from various species of protists, not to mention sperm cells are capable of faster speeds than that."

      The first thing that came to me was Listeria [wikipedia.org]. These bacteria are intracellular pathogens, using the host cell's cytoskeleton (actin filaments) to shoot around the interior of the cell (and eventually punch through the cell wall IIRC) at 0.12-1.46 microns/sec [nih.gov], faster than the cells tested.
    • by ananyo (2519492)

      They were simply the fastest cells that were among those that were raced; many cells from various species of protists, not to mention sperm cells are capable of faster speeds than that.

      This is a fair point - though the story points to the fact these cells were being raced for a reason - it tells us more about embryo development. Racing sperm cells wouldn't tell us much about that (well, except how quickly a species could actually create the embryo in the first place).

      • by ananyo (2519492)
        Also it turns out that the contest was about 'crawling' cells not 'swimming' ones (just got a response from the journo).
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MrIlios (2524820)
      Sperm cells were not allowed to enter this particular event as they were registered for the sack race...
  • moving pretty fast. Hard to believe cells that are not normally motile (bone marrow stem cells) would beat cells that are exquisitely evolved for high speed locomotion. Come to think of it, paramecium can move pretty fast, too.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Come to think of it, paramecium can move pretty fast, too.

      http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2000/RossKrupnik.shtml [hypertextbook.com]

      2 mm/sec?

      I believe it. Those things are a PITA to observe under a scope without adding this slime stuff that slows them down.

      • by MachDelta (704883)

        Detain. I remember that stuff from bio labs. One of the dumbest labs I ever did. First, they expected freshmen undergrads to have the skill to catch a paramecium with a dropper and a dissecting microscope. Then, they expected us to know just how much detain to add to the slide so that we could find the damn thing, but not so much that it was totally immobilized. Then, they expected that if we added some food to the slide, we would be able to observe it eating...

        I don't think anyone in my lab class managed a

        • by vlm (69642)

          Detain. I remember that stuff from bio labs. One of the dumbest labs I ever did. First, they expected freshmen undergrads to have the skill to catch a paramecium with a dropper and a dissecting microscope. Then, they expected us to know just how much detain to add to the slide so that we could find the damn thing, but not so much that it was totally immobilized. Then, they expected that if we added some food to the slide, we would be able to observe it eating...

          I don't think anyone in my lab class managed all three. I remember wishing I was still at home, in my bed...

          And the joke ends thus: ... immobile, covered in slime stuff, and eating?

  • Who cares about speed anymore? Power efficiency is what counts!

    Let those cells race, and then decide winners on criteria like "microns moved per sugar molecule" or something.

  • by iamhassi (659463) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @06:21PM (#38260330) Journal
    If they're 0.000000312 kilometers per hour how fast is that "scale speed"? If they were the size of a car, how fast would they be traveling?
    • by vlm (69642)

      If they're 0.000000312 kilometers per hour how fast is that "scale speed"? If they were the size of a car, how fast would they be traveling?

      That's kinda variable, like how fast is a person, you mean a kenyan olympic sprinter or a 600 pound walmart shopper?

      None the less, figure "about a dozen microns" within an order of magnitude bigger or smaller. I do not have a prepared slide of those for my little microscope, but I have a gut sense they are about that big based on pictures. Figure about one an a half times the diameter of a red blood cell? Supposedly they vary a lot more in size than a RBC.

      In "car speed" for the standard /. car analogy, t

      • by vlm (69642)

        well I f'd that up pretty well. a mile is about 6000 feet and theres about 60 minutes in an hour so 3 mph is about 6000 / 60 * 3 = 300 feet per minute, so that would imply my car is 150 feet long if I'm going two car lengths per minute.

        In car speed that would be a lot more like two car lengths is 2 * 10 feet = 20 feet per minute, times 60 to get about 1200, call that 1000 Kft, divided by about 5000 Kft per mile, thats about a fifth of a mile per hour.

        • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @06:47PM (#38260572) Homepage Journal

          theres about 60 minutes in an hour

          About sixty? Now I'm scared.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Well see, you've got Imperial hours and metric hours. One of 'em is about 1.2 times the length of the other.

          • by axlr8or (889713)
            No. I think he's been turned upside down by the neutrino fiasco. He must live near some gravity wells.
      • You must also consider the calendar. For example, is it black Friday?
    • by NFN_NLN (633283)

      If they're 0.000000312 kilometers per hour how fast is that "scale speed"? If they were the size of a car, how fast would they be traveling?

      If a "Adult bone marrow stem cells" is ~ 25 microns = 25E-6m
      http://www.biology-online.org/biology-forum/about154.html?hilit=Stromal [biology-online.org]

      If an average car is 4.12m
      http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_average_length_of_a_car [answers.com]

      Then 4.12/25E-6=x/(0.000000312km/h)

      x=0.0514176km/h

  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @07:25PM (#38260932)
    This story will definitely break slashdot's sperm joke record
  • It would take 365.88 years for the bone marrow stem cell to travel 1km. It would take 165,000 years for the Space Shuttle to travel to Alpha Centauri. Just thought that was interesting.
  • 0,000000312 km/hour is 2,733 m/year or like 50-100 times faster than tectonic plates drifting or moon receiding from earth which is on the order of centimeters/year.
  • Some of my cells were travelling self-propelled at 5 km/h earlier today. In fact, all of the were.
    • If those cells were to be placed in an exoskeleton build by other cells, the opportunity to increase the travelling speed become realised.

  • Four hundred Quatloos on the brown ones.

      - "The Gamesters of Triskelion"

  • The blog post now has a neat video [nature.com] Love the way some of the critters are moving backwards....
  • About 8 seconds into the video that they show, in the 4th lane from the bottom, am I seeing a cell split into two? It looks like it splits, then the daughters go in opposite directions more quickly than their parent cell moved...

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