Every single one of these creepy crawlers is a mutant. And there’s more of them. In fact, over 12,000 C. elegans worms carrying altered genes have been caught on tape for a project called Worm Watch Lab. And though none of them were recorded growing any extra heads, some did show altered egg-laying behaviour. Identifying which mutations have this effect could help uncover genes that play a role in depression, as one chemical that modulates egg laying in C. elegans called serotonin, affects mood in humans. However, there are thousands of genes, and screening for worms with egg-laying defects is time consuming. That’s where we come in – anyone can click on the project’s website and analyse the videos. So far, over 120,000 clips have been classified. And though there’s still a lot of work to do, this already illustrates how citizen scientists can contribute to current research.
Written by Emma Bornebroek
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.