A Penn Dental Medicine study found that cavity-causing microbes have the ability to form superorgranisms that can sprout “limbs” that propel them to “walk” and “leap” to quickly spread on the tooth surface.
As per the Penn Today article, this discovery was almost accidental, according to Hyun (Michel) Koo, a professor at Penn Dental Medicine and a co-corresponding author on the paper. “Looking under the microscope, we noticed the bacteria and fungi forming these assemblages and developing motions we never thought they would possess: a ‘walking-like’ and ‘leaping-like’ mobility,” he explained. “They have a lot of what we call ‘emergent functions’ that bring new benefits to this assemblage that they could not achieve on their own. It’s almost like a new organism—a superorganism—with new functions.”
Zhi Ren, a postdoctoral fellow in Koo’s group, first author on the paper and part of the first cohort of the NIDCR T90R90 postdoctoral training program within Penn’s Center for Innovation & Precision Dentistry, was using microscopy that allows scientists to visualize the behavior of living microbes in real time when this ground-breaking discovery was made.
Read more here in Penn Today.