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On-chip functional neuroimaging with mechanical stimulation in Caenorhabditis elegans larvae for studying development and neural circuits

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Abstract

Mechanosensation is fundamentally important for the abilities of an organism to experience touch, hear sounds, and maintain balance. Caenorhabditis elegans is a powerful system for studying mechanosensation as this worm is well suited for in vivo functional imaging of neurons. Many years of research using labor-intensive methods have generated a wealth of knowledge about mechanosensation in C. elegans, and the recent microfluidic-based platforms continue to push the boundary for this field. However, developmental aspects of sensory biology, including mechanosensation, are still not fully understood. One current bottleneck is the difficulty in assaying larvae because they are much smaller than adult worms. Microfluidic devices with features small enough for larvae, especially actuators for the delivery of mechanical stimulation, are difficult to design and fabricate. Here, we present a series of automatic microfluidic platforms that allow for in vivo functional imaging of C. elegans responding to controlled mechanical stimulation at different developmental stages. Using a novel fabrication method, we designed highly deformable pneumatically actuated on-chip structures that can deliver mechanical stimulation to larval worms. The PDMS actuator allows for quantitatively controlled mechanical stimulation of both gentle and harsh touch neurons, by simply changing the actuation pressure, which makes this device easily translatable to other labs. We validated the design and utility of our systems with studies of the functional role of mechanosensory neurons in developing worms; we showed that gentle and harsh touch neurons function similarly in early larvae as they do in the adult stage, which would not have been possible previously. Finally, we investigated the effect of a sleep-like state on neuronal responses by imaging C. elegans in the lethargus state.

Graphical abstract: On-chip functional neuroimaging with mechanical stimulation in Caenorhabditis elegans larvae for studying development and neural circuits

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Publication details

The article was received on 10 Nov 2017, accepted on 05 Jan 2018 and first published on 09 Jan 2018


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7LC01201B
Citation: Lab Chip, 2018, Advance Article
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    On-chip functional neuroimaging with mechanical stimulation in Caenorhabditis elegans larvae for studying development and neural circuits

    Y. Cho, D. N. Oakland, S. A. Lee, W. R. Schafer and H. Lu, Lab Chip, 2018, Advance Article , DOI: 10.1039/C7LC01201B

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