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Scientists Create Pac-Man Map For Microorganisms Research

In order to see and understand better how microorganisms work, especially the relationships between prey and predator microorganisms, scientists in Norway have designed the coolest map – a Pac-Man simulation that furthers their research on the subject.

In the video shown titled Protozoan Pacman: Single Celled Animal Behavior in a 1mm Maze, the microorganisms can be seen quickly moving around the map in what the researchers say is a nutritious liquid. According to the University College of Southeast Norway team’s research, the unicellular species, called euglena, are stand-ins for Pac-man. The multicellular species, called rotifers, are the ghosts, Polygon reports.

The goal of the study was to find out how euglena react to being in life-or-death situations when chased by rotifers in a physical, three-dimensional area that is smaller than 1mm in total diameter.

The project was headed by Professor Erik Andrew Johannessen at the Department of Micro and Nano System Technology, and the scientists say that they had fun along the way.

Euglena is the best known and the most heavily researched member of the single-cell flagellate class Euglenoidea.  The Euglenoidea is a diverse group of more than 800 species and 54 genera.  They are found in both fresh and salt water with large numbers usually present in quiet inland waters where their presence is characterized by green and red coverings of the ponds they inhabit.

Johannessen points out that scientists and those in the pharmaceutical industry traditionally cultivated cells and microorganisms in “petri dishes,” which form an artificial two-dimensional environment where there are no hindrances on the surface where the microorganisms swim in.

In nature, microorganisms have to deal with an “ingenious system of canals and structures,” so by introducing a three-dimensional maze in their research, the scientists force the microorganisms to interact with their environment and create a more natural behavior, Johannessen says.

To make the map more accessible to the public, the scientists asked film director Adam Bartley Iyslagt to help them. The director created the Pac-Man map to capture the seeming game-play between the euglena and rotifers. Iyslagt used neon-lighting and micro scenography to video what was taking place, which resulted in the two-minute footage.

The Pac-Man project helped not only the Norwegian team with their research, but they said the kind of technology that bridges their findings with gaming and similar entertainment methods plays a vital role in relaying their research in a way that normal people can understand. The researchers intend to focus on creating more Pac-Man-inspired maps for future studies, and are looking into integrating other games into their work.


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