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New devices to boost nematode research on neurons and drugs
Date:2/6/2008

nstance, researchers can manipulate the levels of sodium chloride and oxygen in the water being injected into the devices.

As a proof of principle, researchers had to show that the behavior of the nematodes is essentially normal in the new devices, meaning that the worms crawl like they do on an agar surface. "But nematodes don't live on exposed agar surfaces in real life," Lockery said. Instead, they are found within soil and easily collected in the wild in rotting fruit.

"The beauty of this system is that it reproduces standard laboratory behavior, but it does so in a context that is probably more normal in terms of the worms' real-life environment," he said. "You get forward and reverse locomotion, and the nematodes also do the omega turn, in which a worm's head bends around to touch the tail during forward locomotion, forming a shape like the Greek omega."

The waveform device features 18 different channels, with each divided into domains with unique amplitudes and wavelengths to manipulate how a nematode moves. Instead of using posts to mimic real soil, depressions or channels provide natural areas -- even some that don't occur in nature -- for the nematodes to crawl through. "This ability to change the channels but still allow the worms to move about proved the principle in this case," Lockery said. "What we found from this is that these animals are remarkably adaptable to a wide range of situations."

The artificial soil device, Lockery said, will help to study how brains generally process sensory information and for high-through-put screening of new drugs for their biological effects. Such research, he said, could lead to new treatments for some two billion people infected annually by parasitic nematodes, as well as new tools to reduce nematode-caused losses in world agriculture.

The waveform device could enhance research on brain-behavior connections. C-elegans have only 302 neurons, compared to 100 billion neurons
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Contact: Jim Barlow
jebarlow@uoregon.edu
541-346-3481
University of Oregon
Source:Eurekalert  

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