Venus Flytrap

Physicists use atomic magnetometers to measure the biomagnetic signals of the meat-eating plant.

The Venus flytrap ( Dionaea muscipula) is a carnivorous plant that confines its victim using modified leaves as a trap. Throughout this procedure, electrical signals called action capacities set off the closure of the leaf lobes. An interdisciplinary team of researchers has actually now revealed that these electrical signals produce quantifiable magnetic fields. Utilizing atomic magnetometers, it showed possible to tape this biomagnetism. “You might state the examination is a little like performing an MRI scan in human beings,” stated physicist Anne Fabricant. “The problem is that the magnetic signals in plants are extremely weak, which explains why it was very challenging to measure them with the help of older technologies.”

Electrical activity in the Venus flytrap is connected with magnetic signals

We know that in the human brain voltage changes in certain areas arise from collective electrical activity that travels through afferent neuron in the type of action capacities. Methods such as electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to tape-record these activities and noninvasively identify disorders. When plants are promoted, they also generate electrical signals, which can take a trip through a cellular network comparable to the human and animal nervous system.

Venus Flytrap Magnetic Signals

Measuring magnetic signals produced by a Venus flytrap (photo collage). Credit: © Anne Fabricant

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), the Helmholtz Institute Mainz (HIM), the Biocenter of Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU), and the Physikalisch-Technisch Bundesanstalt (PTB) in Berlin, Germany’s national meteorology institute, has now shown that electrical activity in the Venus flytrap is likewise related to magnetic signals. “We have actually had the ability to show that action potentials in a multicellular plant system produce quantifiable magnetic fields, something that had actually never ever been verified prior to,” stated Anne Fabricant, a doctoral prospect in Professor Dmitry Budker’s research study group at JGU and HIM.

The trap of Dionaea muscipula consists of bilobed trapping leaves with sensitive hairs, which, when touched, trigger an action capacity that travels through the whole trap. After two succeeding stimuli, the trap closes and any possible insect victim is locked inside and consequently absorbed. Interestingly, the trap is electrically excitable in a variety of methods: in addition to mechanical impacts such as touch or injury, osmotic energy, for instance salt-water loads, and thermal energy in the type of heat or cold can also set off action capacities. For their study, the research study team used heat stimulation to cause action capacities, therefore removing possibly troubling elements such as mechanical background noise in their magnetic measurements.

Biomagnetism– detection of magnetic signals from living organisms

While biomagnetism has actually been fairly well-researched in people and animals, so far very little equivalent research study has actually been carried out in the plant kingdom, utilizing just superconducting-quantum-interference-device (SQUID) magnetometers, large instruments that should be cooled to cryogenic temperatures. For the existing experiment, the research group used atomic magnetometers to determine the magnetic signals of the Venus flytrap. The sensing unit is a glass cell filled with a vapor of alkali atoms, which respond to little modifications in the local magnetic-field environment. These optically pumped magnetometers are more attractive for biological applications due to the fact that they do not need cryogenic cooling and can also be miniaturized.

The researchers spotted magnetic signals with an amplitude of up to 0.5 picotesla from the Venus flytrap, which is countless times weaker than the Earth’s electromagnetic field. “The signal magnitude tape-recorded resembles what is observed throughout surface measurements of nerve impulses in animals,” explained Anne Fabricant. The JGU physicists aim to measure even smaller signals from other plant types. In the future, such noninvasive technologies could potentially be used in agriculture for crop-plant diagnostics, by detecting electromagnetic actions to unexpected temperature modifications, bugs, or chemical influences without needing to harm the plants using electrodes.

Recommendation: “Action potentials induce biomagnetic fields in carnivorous Venus flytrap plants” by Anne Fabricant, Geoffrey Z. Iwata, Sönke Scherzer, Lykourgos Bougas, Katharina Rolfs, Anna Jodko-Władzińska, Jens Voigt, Rainer Hedrich and Dmitry Budker, 14 January 2021, Scientific Reports
DOI: 10.1038/ s41598-021-81114- w

The outcomes of the research study have actually been published in Scientific Reports The job gotten financial support from the German Research Structure (DFG), the Carl Zeiss Structure, and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research Study (BMBF).

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