Clanger or clear wing cicada (Psaltoda claripennis). Image courtesy of Arthur Chapman/Flickr
Cicadas don’t use antibacterial wing sanitizer, so how do these insects keep their wings free of bacteria? Hint: it’s structural.
The wings of the Clanger cicada kill certain bacteria by ripping their cell membranes. A pattern of pillar-like nanostructures on the wings’ surface put pressure on the bacterial cell membrane, causing it to stretch and eventually tear. In a study published in Biophysical Journal in February, researchers modeled this process for the first time. They say this is the first example of a species being able to kill bacteria with a physical structure alone.
Replicating this physical structure in bio-inspired synthetic design could eventually lead to the production of antibacterial surfaces that kill bacteria on contact. Watch the video to see a magnified rendering of how the nano-pillars lead to a bacterial cell’s demise.