Munich Researchers Use WormLab to Study Blast Effects on C. elegans


Explosions can tear apart buildings, send shrapnel flying, and hurtle humans into the air. But explosions also cause damage in ways that aren’t as visually apparent. Scientists say the force of a blast can cause brain damage, but questions linger about how the symptoms that emerge after a blast-induced traumatic brain injury are connected to the initial trauma.

In their quest to learn more about how symptoms emerge after a traumatic blast, researchers at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, in Munich, Germany have developed an animal model of blast-related mild traumatic brain injury (br-mTBI) using C. elegans – a popular model organism alternative to vertebrate animals.

In their study, published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, the research team used WormLab to analyze thousands of worms. They found that shockwaves either slowed the worms’ movements or rendered them paralyzed. Symptoms played out in a dose-dependent manner, meaning that worms exposed to a higher number of shockwaves displayed a higher severity of symptoms.

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Mutations in a TRP ion channel cause dopaminergic cell loss in C. elegans


Tracking C. elegans with WormLab

Researchers have identified two strains of mutant C. elegans that lose the majority of their dopaminergic neurons in adulthood, a characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

The two strains of mutant C. elegans (ot337 and ot477) showed normal development of dopaminergic neurons, however these neurons began to progressively decline in adulthood; and the deterioration was not an occurrence of the normal aging process, the authors say in their paper published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

After mapping the worms’ entire genome sequence, the researchers pinpointed the site of the mutation – the Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) mechanosensory channel trp-4 – a mutation that has not previously been implicated in dopaminergic neuron death.

“We describe here a novel Caenorhabditis elegans mutant with robust and progressive degeneration of dopaminergic neurons during postembryonic development,” the authors say in their paper. “We show that a single amino acid substitution in a TRP channel is responsible for the phenotype, implicating mutations in TRP family channels as a direct cause of dopaminergic degeneration for the first time.”

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Researchers use WormLab to reveal that nicotine addiction is heritable in C. elegans

Interacting Worms

Smokers aren’t only hurting themselves, they’re also hurting their children and grandchildren. So says a study published last month in the EXCLI Journal.

Scientists at East Carolina University, in Greenville, North Carolina saw unusual behavior in C. elegans roundworms exposed to nicotine at an early stage of development. But that’s not all – the researchers also witnessed abnormal behavior and withdrawal symptoms in subsequent generations of worms even though these groups were not directly exposed to nicotine. Continue reading “Researchers use WormLab to reveal that nicotine addiction is heritable in C. elegans” »