The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is an important model organism in genetic research and drug screening because of its relative simplicity, ease of maintenance, amenability to simple genetic manipulation, and relevance to human biology. However, their small size and mobility make nematodes difficult to physically manipulate, particularly with spatial and temporal precision. We have developed a microfluidic device to overcome these challenges and enable fast behavior-based chemical screening in C. elegans. The key components of this easy-to-use device allow rapid loading and housing of C. elegans in a chamber array for chemical screening. A simple two-step loading process enables simultaneous loading of a large number of animals within a few minutes without using any expensive/active off-chip components. In addition, chemicals can be precisely delivered to the worms and exchanged with high temporal precision. To demonstrate this feature and the ability to measure time dependent responses to chemicals, we characterize the transient response of worms exposed to different concentrations of anesthetics. We then use the device to study the effect of chemical signals from hermaphrodite worms on male behavior. The ability of the device to maintain a large number of free moving animals in one field of view over a long period of time permits us to demonstrate an increase in the incidence of a specific behavior in males subjected to worm-conditioned medium. Because our device allows monitoring of a large number of worms with single-animal resolution, we envision that this platform will greatly expedite chemical screening in C. elegans.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering