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Planet Earth

Watch This: Cicadas Kill Bacteria with Structures on Their Wings

80beatsBy Breanna DraxlerMarch 5, 2013 9:42 PM
Cicada - Flickr
Clanger or clear wing cicada (Psaltoda claripennis). (Credit: Arthur Chapman/Flickr)

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Cicadas don't use antibacterial wing sanitizer, so how do these insects keep their wings free of bacteria? Hint: it's structural.

The wings of the Clanger cicada kill certain bacteria by ripping their cell membranes. A pattern of pillar-like nanostructures on the wings' surface put pressure on the bacterial cell membrane, causing it to stretch and eventually tear.

In a study published in Biophysical Journal in February, researchers modeled this process for the first time. They say this is the first example of a species being able to kill bacteria with a physical structure alone.

Replicating this physical structure in bio-inspired synthetic design could eventually lead to the production of antibacterial surfaces that kill bacteria on contact.

Watch the video to see a magnified rendering of how the nano-pillars lead to a bacterial cell's demise.

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