Worm scanning speeds research

Mar 25, 2012

Scientists from The University of Queensland's School of Biological Sciences have developed a simplified, cheaper, all-purpose method they say can be used by scientists around the globe to more easily count the blind worms (Caenorhabditis elegans or C.elegans).

The method known as WormScan (a high-throughput system) can be used in a wide range of additional C.elegans studies including lifespan determination, development, pathology and behaviour.

Mr Neal Matthew, who is studying his PhD under the supervision of Associate Professor Paul Ebert said that the novel method requires no more than a flatbed scanner and improves counting rates and accuracy with nearly 100% efficiency.

The same results can only be replicated by using an expensive flow cytometer, but with a purchase price of around $400k, such equipment is out of reach for most science departments.

"There are four main that are assessed in whole organism studies of Caenorhabditis elegans; mortality, movement, fecundity and size," Mr Neal Matthew said.

By eliminating hours spent in front of the microscope, the procedure increases by order of magnitude the number of experiments a researcher can do in a given amount of time. This allows for high throughput screening of candidate drugs that improve the quality of life in old age.

"WormScan uses light stimulus from the scanner instead of a physical stimulus from a worm pick to induce movement. With two sequential scans it is possible to quantify the response," said Mr Mark Matthew, who is completing a Master of Philosophy in Associate Professor Ebert's laboratory alongside his brother Neal.

"Even though we have focused on demonstrating the usefulness of WormScan in toxicology, it can be used in a wide range of additional C.elegans studies including determination, development, pathology and behaviour. We have even adapted the method to study other species of similar dimensions," Mr Mark Matthew said.

Associate Professor Ebert said he anticipates WormScan to gather interest outside of the University.

"WormScan should appeal to companies who focus on natural products to enhance health and fitness as well as drugs used to treat diseases associated with old age, such as diabetes, Alzheimer's and cancer."

Associate Professor Ebert said that the software package they have developed is freely available for use or modification by other research groups. It may be accessed through the research paper.

Explore further: Students use physics to unpack DNA, one molecule at a time

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Biologists identify a new clue into cellular aging

Jul 07, 2010

The ability to combat some age-related diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, may rest with scientists unlocking clues about the molecular and cellular processes governing aging. The underlying theory is that if the healthy ...

Making the worms turn

Feb 03, 2012

To biophysicist Aravinthan Samuel, the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans provides a pathway to understanding the brain and nervous system, first of the worm, then of higher animals, and even, perhaps, of humans.

Recommended for you

Fighting bacteria—with viruses

17 hours ago

Research published today in PLOS Pathogens reveals how viruses called bacteriophages destroy the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which is becoming a serious problem in hospitals and healthcare institutes, due to its re ...

Atomic structure of key muscle component revealed

18 hours ago

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and when you look more closely at its fundamental role in life, it's easy to see why. It is the basis of most movement in the body, and all cells and components ...

Brand new technology detects probiotic organisms in food

Jul 23, 2014

In the food industr, ity is very important to ensure the quality and safety of products consumed by the population to improve their properties and reduce foodborne illness. Therefore, a team of Mexican researchers ...

Protein evolution follows a modular principle

Jul 23, 2014

Proteins impart shape and stability to cells, drive metabolic processes and transmit signals. To perform these manifold tasks, they fold into complex three-dimensional shapes. Scientists at the Max Planck ...

Report on viruses looks beyond disease

Jul 22, 2014

In contrast to their negative reputation as disease causing agents, some viruses can perform crucial biological and evolutionary functions that help to shape the world we live in today, according to a new report by the American ...

User comments : 0