Nikon Instruments Inc. today unveiled the winners of the seventh annual Nikon Small World in Motion Photomicrography Competition, awarding First Place to Daniel von Wangenheim from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria for his time lapse video following the root tip of Arabidopsis thaliana (also known as the Thale cress). The video reflects a time lapse of 17 hours and approximately 4mm of growth. Von Wangenheim and his colleagues are studying how plants perceive and respond to gravity.
“Once we have a better understanding of the behavior of plant roots and its underlying mechanisms, we can help them grow deeper into the soil to reach water or defy gravity in upper areas of the soil to adjust their root branching angle to areas with richer nutrients,” said von Wangenheim. “One step further, this could finally help to successfully grow plants under microgravity conditions in outer space to provide food for astronauts in long-lasting missions.”
To film the growing root, von Wangenheim and his colleagues, Robert Hauschild, Matyáš Fendrych, Eva Benkova and Jiří Friml, turned a confocal microscope on its side to provide an upright position. They then placed the plant on a rotation stage, with the root between a coverslip and a block of gel and the leaves exposed to the air. They also implemented a lighting system that simulated ideal growing conditions and a day-night rhythm. As they rotated the plant, they observed how the root would bend downwards each time, sensing gravity.
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