PROVIDENCE, R.I.--Peter Pan, make room for frog eggs.
Brown University scientists have used a magnetic field to levitate embryos of a small frog. The maneuver suggests an Earth-based alternative to expensive space missions for observing how living plants and animals develop in a low-gravity environment.
The Brown scientists think that use of a technique called magnetic field gradient levitation (MFGL) could allow researchers on Earth to perform experiments in simulated low gravity at a fraction of the cost of doing the work in a space shuttle. However, the scientists are unsure of the exact impact on plants and animals examined under the MFGL technique. In the study, the magnetic field caused changes in the early development of almost half of the frog embryos.
The study has been accepted for publication in the Biophysical Journal. The scientists first described their findings at the March 1996 annual meeting of the American Physical Society. Their study marked the first account of living creatures levitated in a magnetic field. Last April, researchers in the Netherlands reported use of a magnetic field to levitate a frog, grasshoppers, fish and plants.
The Brown scientists created the magnetic field inside a large bagel-shaped solenoid--a cylindrical coil of tightly wound insulated wire through which a powerful electric current flows. The solenoid was about 20 inches tall and 30 inches in diameter, with a 2-inch diameter center hole. Up to 100 embryos - each the thickness of paper clip metal--were placed one-by-one in a drop of pure water levitated in a magnetic field created by 5 megawatts of electricity.
The procedure worked because the water, proteins and lipids inside the
embryos created a weak magnetic field that repelled them slightly from the
powerful field inside the solenoid. The result was a force that levitated the
embryo-laden drop inside the solenoid f
Contact: Scott Turner