Why use the worm in research?

In contrast to the fruit fly, the nematode worm (Caenorhabditis elegans) has only been utilised as a model organism since the 1960s.

Caenorhabditis elegans nematode worms are either male or hermaphrodite (having both male and female reproductive organs), but not female. Hermaphrodites are capable of self-fertilization as well as mating with men.

The worm is considerably less complex than humans; for instance, it lacks bones, a heart, and a circulatory system, but it shares many genes and biochemical pathways with us.

Each worm is composed of approximately 1,000 somatic cells (non-sex cells), of which one-third are nerve cells, and approximately the same number of germ cells in the gonad (sex organ). In 1998, the entire genome sequence of C. elegans was published.

The C. elegans genome is 100 million base pairs long and contains around 20,500 genes, the same number as in humans.

C. elegans may be produced in big numbers and at low cost on plates containing microorganisms. C. elegans cultures can be frozen and then defrosted and revived as necessary.

C. elegans produces more than 1,000 eggs daily. They only have a two-week life cycle, which is useful for researching their development. As a very little organism, C. elegans is easy to maintain in the laboratory.

It is possible to observe the behaviour of individual cells during the growth of a transparent worm. Under a microscope, the anatomy and development of C. elegans are plainly observable.

Each cell may be traced back to the embryo due to C. elegans' distinctively particular development, in which cells divide and specialise in a distinct manner. Although C. elegans is a relatively simple organism, many of the chemical cues that drive its development are also present in complex organisms, such as humans.

It is fairly simple to generate mutant variants of C. elegans in which certain genes are changed in order to investigate gene function in detail. Numerous genes in the C. elegans genome have functional analogues in humans, making C. elegans an incredibly valuable model for human disorders.

Mutants of C. elegans serve as models for numerous human diseases, such as neurological abnormalities, congenital heart disease, and renal disease.

Mutants of C. elegans can be used to screen thousands of potential treatments for serious disorders.

Cell death or 'apoptosis' research in C. elegans may hold the secret to reversing the consequences of ageing in people as well as shedding light on cancer, diabetes, and other disorders.