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  1. Abstract

    Regulation of membrane receptor mobility tunes cellular response to external signals, such as in binding of B cell receptors (BCR) to antigen, which initiates signaling. However, whether BCR signaling is regulated by BCR mobility, and what factors mediate this regulation, are not well understood. Here we use single molecule imaging to examine BCR movement during signaling activation and a novel machine learning method to classify BCR trajectories into distinct diffusive states. Inhibition of actin dynamics downstream of the actin nucleating factors, Arp2/3 and formin, decreases BCR mobility. Constitutive loss or acute inhibition of the Arp2/3 regulator, N-WASP, which is associated with enhanced signaling, increases the proportion of BCR trajectories with lower diffusivity. Furthermore, loss of N-WASP reduces the diffusivity of CD19, a stimulatory co-receptor, but not that of FcγRIIB, an inhibitory co-receptor. Our results implicate a dynamic actin network in fine-tuning receptor mobility and receptor-ligand interactions for modulating B cell signaling.

  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 27, 2023
  3. Abstract Most mammals sniff to detect odors, but little is known how the periodic inhale and exhale that make up a sniff helps to improve odor detection. In this combined experimental and theoretical study, we use fluid mechanics and machine olfaction to rationalize the benefits of sniffing at different rates. We design and build a bellows and sensor system to detect the change in current as a function of odor concentration. A fast sniff enables quick odor recognition, but too fast a sniff makes the amplitude of the signal comparable to noise. A slow sniff increases signal amplitude but delays its transmission. This trade-off may inspire the design of future devices that can actively modulate their sniffing frequency according to different odors.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  4. Swarms of ground-based robots are presently limited to relatively simple environments, which we attribute in part to the lack of locomotor capabilities needed to traverse complex terrain. To advance the field of terradynamically capable swarming robotics, inspired by the capabilities of multilegged organisms, we hypothesize that legged robots consisting of reversibly chainable modular units with appropriate passive perturbation management mechanisms can perform diverse tasks in variable terrain without complex control and sensing. Here, we report a reconfigurable swarm of identical low-cost quadruped robots (with directionally flexible legs and tail) that can be linked on demand and autonomously. When tasks become terradynamically challenging for individuals to perform alone, the individuals suffer performance degradation. A systematic study of performance of linked units leads to new discoveries of the emergent obstacle navigation capabilities of multilegged robots. We also demonstrate the swarm capabilities through multirobot object transport. In summary, we argue that improvement capabilities of terrestrial swarms of robots can be achieved via the judicious interaction of relatively simple units.
  5. Robotic navigation on land, through air, and in water is well researched; numerous robots have successfully demonstrated motion in these environments. However, one frontier for robotic locomotion remains largely unexplored—below ground. Subterranean navigation is simply hard to do, in part because the interaction forces of underground motion are higher than in air or water by orders of magnitude and because we lack for these interactions a robust fundamental physics understanding. We present and test three hypotheses, derived from biological observation and the physics of granular intrusion, and use the results to inform the design of our burrowing robot. These results reveal that (i) tip extension reduces total drag by an amount equal to the skin drag of the body, (ii) granular aeration via tip-based airflow reduces drag with a nonlinear dependence on depth and flow angle, and (iii) variation of the angle of the tip-based flow has a nonmonotonic effect on lift in granular media. Informed by these results, we realize a steerable, root-like soft robot that controls subterranean lift and drag forces to burrow faster than previous approaches by over an order of magnitude and does so through real sand. We also demonstrate that the robot can modulate itsmore »pullout force by an order of magnitude and control its direction of motion in both the horizontal and vertical planes to navigate around subterranean obstacles. Our results advance the understanding and capabilities of robotic subterranean locomotion.

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  6. Despite having a trunk that weighs over 100 kg, elephants mainly feed on lightweight vegetation. How do elephants manipulate such small items? In this experimental and theoretical investigation, we filmed elephants at Zoo Atlanta showing that they can use suction to grab food, performing a behaviour that was previously thought to be restricted to fishes. We use a mathematical model to show that an elephant’s nostril size and lung capacity enables them to grab items using comparable pressures as the human lung. Ultrasonographic imaging of the elephant sucking viscous fluids show that the elephant’s nostrils dilate up to 30 % in radius, which increases the nasal volume by 64 % . Based on the pressures applied, we estimate that the elephants can inhale at speeds of over 150 m s −1 , nearly 30 times the speed of a human sneeze. These high air speeds enable the elephant to vacuum up piles of rutabaga cubes as well as fragile tortilla chips. We hope these findings inspire further work in suction-based manipulation in both animals and robots.