Physicists use atomic magnetometers to measure the biomagnetic signals of a carnivorous plant.
The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscle) is a carnivorous plant that covers its prey using modified leaves as a trap. During this time, electrical signals, known as action potentials, cause the leaf lobes to close. An interdisciplinary team of scientists has now shown that these electrical signals create measurable magnetic fields. It was possible to record this biomagnetism using atomic magnetometers. “You can say that the investigation is something like an MRI scan in humans,” said physicist Anne Fabricant. “The problem is that the magnetic signals in plants are very weak, which explains why it is difficult to measure them with the help of old technology.”
The electrical activity in the Venus flytrap is linked to magnetic signals
We know that voltage changes in certain areas of the human brain are the result of the activity of electrical energy extending along nerve cells in the form of action potentials. Methods such as electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to record these activities and to identify the disorders as non-invasive. When plants are stimulated, they also generate electrical signals that can pass through a cell network similar to the human and animal nervous systems.
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), Helmholtz Institute Mainz (HIM), Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU) and Physicalisch-Technisch Bundesanstalt (PTB), a German national, the Berlin Meteorological Institute, now operate on the Venus flytrap demonstrated that it is also associated with signals. “We have been able to demonstrate that the potential for action in a multicellular plant system produces magnetic fields that can be measured in a way that has never been proven before,” said Anne Fabricant, Ph.D. in Professor Dmitry Budker’s research team at JGU and HIM.
Trap Dionaea muscle consists of sensitive fluffy bilobed trap leaves that trigger a movement potential that moves across the entire trap when touched. After two consecutive stimuli, the trap closes and the potential insect trap is locked inside and then digested. Interestingly, the trap is electrically exciting in a variety of ways: in addition to mechanical effects such as touch or injury, osmotic energy, such as salt water loads and thermal energy in the form of heat or cold, can also trigger action potentials. The research team used thermal stimulation to induce motion potential for their research, thereby eliminating potentially disturbing factors such as mechanical background noise in magnetic measurements.
Biomagnetism – the detection of magnetic signals from living organisms
Although biomagnetism has been relatively well studied in humans and animals, very little equivalent research has been done in the plant kingdom to date using magnetometers, a superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) that only needs to be cooled to cryogenic temperatures. . For the current experiment, the research team used atomic magnetometers to measure the magnetic signals of the Venus flytrap. The sensor is a glass cell filled with the vapor of alkaline atoms that reacts to small changes in the local magnetic field. These optically pumped magnetometers are more attractive for biological applications because they do not require cryogenic cooling and can be miniaturized.
Researchers have discovered magnetic signals from the Venus flytrap with an amplitude of 0.5 picotes, which are millions of times weaker than the Earth’s magnetic field. “The magnitude of the recorded signal is similar to that observed during superficial measurements of nerve impulses in animals,” explained Anne Fabricant. JGU physicists aim to measure signals smaller than other plant species. In the future, such non-invasive technologies could potentially be used to diagnose plants in agriculture, using electrodes to detect electromagnetic reactions to sudden temperature changes, pests or chemical effects without harming plants.
Reference: “Action potentials, carnivorous Venus induces biomagnetic fields in flytrap plants” Anne Fabricant, Geoffrey Z. Iwata, Sonke Scherzer, Lykourgos Bougas, Katharina Rolfs, Anna Jodko-Władzińska, Jens Voigrich, 20 Raner, Rainer Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-021-81114-w
The results of the study have been published Scientific Reports. The project received financial support from the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Carl Zeiss Foundation and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).