What is Caenorhabditis Elegans and Why Use It As Model Organism?

What is Caenorhabditis Elegans and Why Use It As Model Organism?

Speaking of worms, most people would be like "Ew, I hate to think of the feeling of treading them on bare feet in the damp swamp or image that these slimy things are squirming in the compost." However, these little worms, for scientists, are revealing precious lessons about human biology acting a role of model organisms.


The studies of a species of roundworms, Caenorhabditis elegans, or called C. elegans have impressively contributed to medical science and research in past decades. C. elegans is one of the most widely used model organisms for gene and protein expression studies, providing an invaluable experimental model for studies of cellular differentiation throughout development.


What Is C. Elegans?


C. elegans is a kind of unsegmented worm with smooth skin and a long cylindrical body shape tapered at the ends. Measuring only 1 mm, these small worms are non-hazardous, non-infectious, non-pathogenic, and non-parasitic organisms though they live in the soil and rotting vegetation and survive by feeding on microbes like bacteria.


In the laboratory, C. elegans can be easily cultivated on simple agar plates with bacteria for food. It takes three days to grow from an egg to an adult but only with a two- or three-week life circle.


Why Use C. Elegans for Research?


Back some 50 years ago, South African biologist, Sydney Brenner, shed the light on the research of development and the nervous system, which required the use of simple experimental systems like previously used bacteriophages that helped explore how DNA is copied. Under this condition, the roundworms C. elegans as model organisms were discovered due to its easy cultivation, short life cycle, and the fact that a third of its 1,000 somatic cells are nerve cells.


C. elegans is taken as one of the most popular model animals in research for several reasons. Caenorhabditis elegans could be either male or hermaphrodite that has both male and female reproductive organs, meaning they can self-fertilize or breed with the males. As a result, it can produce more than 1,000 eggs every day.


What's more, C. elegans has a transparent and simpler structure compared with humans who have bones, hearts, and the circulatory system, while it shares a great number of genes and molecular pathways with humans. That's to say, researchers can directly observe the inner structure of C. elegans under light microscopy for insights into human biological process.


Caenorhabditis Elegans Antibodies


As C. elegans provides an experimental model for protein expression and cellular differentiation, a wide range of antibodies and research services are developed. C. elegans antibodies can specifically bind to proteins involved in the processes of aging, apoptosis, chromatin remodeling, cell signaling and development. Consequently, a variety of applications are promoted, including Western blot, immunofluorescence, and immunohistochemical staining.


C. Elegans As Model Organism in Different Fields


Model organisms are non-human species with particular experimental advantages that are easy to maintain and breed in a laboratory setting. As one of the most popular model organisms, C. elegans was the first multicellular organism that had its genome completely sequenced and remained a fundamental tool for genomic research. It has been widely used as a model for several human conditions and diseases like congenital heart disease and kidney disease.


l Model for mitochondrial diseases


Orthologous genes of human genes related to mitochondrial diseases are discovered in Caenorhabditis elegans, which makes C. elegans a possible model organism for mitochondrial disease studies.


l Model for the nervous system study


Different from the nervous system of human beings that contains many billions of neurons, the worm has only 302 neurons. Scientists have reconstructed the successive chemical and electrical synapses sections of C. elegans, providing a complete wiring diagram of the relatively simple nervous system that enables researchers to explore more secrets of the nervous system and solutions to neurological disorders.


Besides, C. elegans is anticipated to be a candidate to study the role of genetics in modulating aging in terms of its shot life circle, as well as to be a model organism to understand the innate immune response to pathogens as only innate immune responses are observed inside C. elegans.


All in all, C. elegans is a prospective model organism for research due to its low cultivation cost and short reproductive time. C. elegans is promising in the study of neurobiology, tumorigenesis, and aging, as well as the screening of natural compounds for human diseases.


Published by vivian creative

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