Scientists develop worm EEG to test the effects of drugs

May 22, 2013
NeuroChip is a microfluidic electrophysiological device which records the brain activity of worms to help test the effects of drugs. Credit: University of Southampton

Scientists from the University of Southampton have developed a device which records the brain activity of worms to help test the effects of drugs.

NeuroChip is a microfluidic electrophysiological device, which can trap the Caenorhadbitis elegans and record the activity of discrete in its 'brain' - a worm equivalent of the EEG.

C. elegans have been enormously important in providing insight into fundamental signalling processes in the nervous system and this device opens the way for a new analysis. Prior to this development, electrophysiological recordings that resolve the activity of excitatory and inhibitory in the nervous system of the worm required a high level of technical expertise – single microscopic (1mm long) worms have to be trapped on the end of a glass tube, a , in order to make the recording. The worms are very mobile as well as being small and this can be a challenging procedure.

The microfluidic invention consists of a reservoir through which worms can be fed, one after the other, into a narrow fluid-filled channel. The channel tapers at one end and this captures the worm by the front end. The worm is then in the correct orientation for recording the activity of the nervous system in the anterior of its body. The device incorporates metal electrodes, which are connected to an amplifier to make the recording. The design of the trapping channel has been optimised by PhD student Chunxiao Hu, so that the quality of the worm '' recording is sufficient to resolve the activity of components of the neural circuit in the worm's nervous system.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This is a video of the NeuroChip. Credit: University of Southampton

This device has been used to detect the effects of drugs and is highly suitable for high throughput screens (which allow researchers to quickly conduct millions of chemical, genetic or pharmacological tests) in and for generic screening for neuroactive drugs. It has more power to resolve discrete effects on excitatory, inhibitory or modulatory transmission than previously possible with behavioural screens.

Lindy Holden-Dye, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southampton and lead author of the paper, says: "We are particularly interested in using this as a sensitive new tool for screening compounds for neurotoxicity. It will allow us to precisely quantify sub-lethal effects on neural network activity. It can also provide an information rich platform by reporting the effects of compounds on a diverse array of neurotransmitter pathways, which are implicated in mammalian toxicology. "

Explore further: Sculpting a cell's backside: New protein found to help cells move from behind

More information: The study 'NeuroChip: A microfluidic electrophysiological device for genetic and chemical biology screening of Caenorhabditis elegans adult and larvae' by Chunxiao Hu James Dillon, James Kearn, Caitriona Murray, Vincent O'Connor, Lindy Holden-Dye, Hywel Morgan is published in the journal PLOS One.

Related Stories

How the worm knows where its nose is

May 16, 2012

For decades, scientists have studied Caenorhabditis elegans – tiny, transparent worms – to glean clues about how neurons develop and function. A new Harvard study suggests that the worms' nervous system is much m ...

Building a digital life form: OpenWorm, Open Source

May 07, 2013

( —The worm Caenorhabditis elegans is one of the most widely studied creatures. Scientists consider the worm a model organism for exploring animal development including neural development. The re ...

Worm sugarcoats bacterial toxins to stave off death

Jan 30, 2013

(—Pathogenic bacteria kill their animal or plant hosts through the production of toxic molecules. But how do animals and plants defend themselves against these toxins? Researchers from the Boyce ...

Recommended for you

C. difficile needs iron, but too much is hazardous

3 hours ago

Those bacteria that require iron walk a tightrope. Iron is essential for their growth, but too much iron can damage DNA and enzymes through oxidation. Therefore, bacteria have machinery to maintain their ...

Researchers discover strong break on cell division

3 hours ago

The protein complex SWI/SNF that loosens tightly wrapped up DNA is also a strong inhibitor of cell division, at the time that cells take on specialized functions. Professor Sander van den Heuvel and PhD researcher ...

A checkpoint enzyme for flawless cell division

3 hours ago

The error-free distribution of genetic material during cell division is important for preventing the development of tumor cells. Prof. Erich Nigg's research group at the Biozentrum, University of Basel, has ...

Together bacteria invade antibiotic landscapes

3 hours ago

Antibiotics kill bacteria – or at least they are supposed to, although unfortunately this does not always result in a cure. Scientists at TU Delft's Kavli Institute of Nanoscience have discovered that bacteria ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.