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Airdate: Jul 02, 2012
Scientist: Jim Gimzewski

Cell Sounds - Noise

Cell Sounds - Noise
"With a song in my cell?" Yes, even the building blocks of life have gotten into the act.

Transcript:
Cell Sounds - Noise

Music; Ambience: Room temperature "cell song"

JM: There's an ancient idea that all of life is in vibration. Well, now we can add one more tiny but palpable voice to this cosmic choir. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Dr. Jim Gimzewski is a UCLA professor of Biochemistry. While studying a common yeast cell-just your regular kind of yeast used in bread and beer-making-he made a fascinating discovery.

JG: "What we found is that the wall of the cell moves back and forward, but by minute, tiny amounts. And what we were doing was picking up that motion, directly, and then amplifying it through a loud speaker. But since the motion is very small in reality, you couldn't hear it with your ear."

JM: Gimzewski says that he's just beginning to have an idea of what's making that sound within the cell.

JG: "A cell is like a chemical factory. And like in any factory, you would have to have some form of pumps, things that move things around. So, to create this motion, you know, the pumping of the liquids, these protein motors do that. They don't look like motors in our world: they're soft, flexible things, but they move. And that motion is reflected in a motion of the cell wall. And that's what we're picking up."

JM: It's thought that virtually all living cells produce this kind of motion, even the cells that make up our bodies. So it should be possible to listen to their sounds as well.

JG: "The types that you find in the human body are probably a thousand times softer than the yeast cell. And when we try to measure something much, much softer, it's much harder."

JM: Pass the singing beer please. We'll hear more about how scientists listen to these cell songs in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.