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Microscopic 'Oxen' Shoulder Heavy Loads

Harvard University researchers have figured out how to turn microscopic green algae into tiny beasts of burden capable of shouldering surprisingly big loads.

Using chemicals, the scientists attached tiny beads to the algae. They then used light to coax the cargo-carrying microbe to swim in a certain direction.

"It like Curious George holding this giant pile of balloons," says Harvard chemist Doug Weibel. " I mean, it's quite remarkable."

The technique could lead to the harnessing of microorganisms for use in industry and biotech -- for example, to move drugs around the body or chemicals across a microchip.

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David Malakoff
Nicknamed "Scoop" in high school, David Malakoff joined NPR in December of 2004 as the technology and science correspondent for NPR’s science desk. His stories about how science and technology impact people’s daily lives can be heard on all NPR news programs.