C. elegans: a natural model for developing therapies to slow ageing

Ageing is a complex and heterogeneous process and is best studied using natural models of ageing in whole organisms and large test populations. C. elegans is a proven model in many fields of biology including ageing, where major breakthroughs have occurred by identifying mutants and interventions that increase lifespan.

To evaluate and develop therapies that delay ageing or degenerative disease, we need to measure their effect on physiological decline in an ageing model. The nematode worm C. elegans slows down within days of reaching adulthood and this video shows an automated method to quantify that decline developed by Magnitude Biosciences.

The automated technology continually monitors large numbers of C. elegans worms without disturbing them, working out how many worms on each of several petri dishes are moving during a 160 second interval every 5 minutes. In this video, you can see the movement of a wild type C. elegans strain and a strain that has been modified to express the human amyloid peptide (Aβ 1-42) as a model for Alzheimer’s disease.

On the right, you can see the movement of worms on two of many petri dishes on which the worms are cultured. The white tracks are the current movement of the worms, the red colour indicates past movement. You can clearly see more movement with the wild type strain compared to the Alzheimer’s disease model.

One the left is a graph of the proportion of worms moving in the population with time. You can see that a smaller proportion of the disease worms are moving from the beginning and their movement declines quickly with time. For the wild type strain, movement peaks around day 2 and then starts to decline but much more slowly than the disease model worms.

The difference between these strains can be quantified by comparing the area under the curves as shown in the bar graph, which shows how long the average worm stays moving, a measure of health-span.

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