Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Worms that Turned
11 September 2012

Worms that Turned

It may seem odd, but we have a lot in common with the worms in this picture. Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) are studied worldwide because they share many biological processes with humans. Yet one of their biggest differences - the fact that C.elegans are transparent - allows their inner-workings to be more easily explored under a microscope. Each of these worms has been genetically engineered to produce fluorescent proteins – a green protein highlights the worm’s intestines whilst a red-coloured one highlights the throat. C. elegans like to wriggle about and huddle together making the body parts of different worms in the left hand image difficult to distinguish. The image on the right shows the results of a computer algorithm, which used knowledge of the worms’ anatomy to virtually untangle the worms, making their similarities easier to spot. A handy trick to have when studying hundreds of worms at a time.

Written by John Ankers

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