The male silk moth has a clever way to find the female of its species. What the male moth doesn't know is that its method of locating the ladies might also be a key in the effort to understand neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
According to a team led by Michigan Engineering researchers, female pheromone molecules in the air will stick to the coating on the male moth's antennae. Nanotunnels in the male's exoskeleton then guide the pheromones to nerve cells that, in turn, carry the message to the male's brain, letting him know that there's a female in the area. Using this system as a model for a similar system in a silicon chip, researchers can get a better understanding of biomolecules -- their size, charge, shape, concentration and the speed at which they assemble.
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