image of a roundworm

Caenorhabditis elegans (Roundworm)

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Scientific Name: Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans)

Organism Facts:

  • Free-living, transparent microscopic worm.
  • Has more than 19,000 genes, compared to around 25,000 genes in humans. A vast number of genes in C. elegans are very similar to other organisms, including humans (around 40%!).
  • Very defined pattern of growth involving a fixed number of cells (959 cells to be exact!), and rapidly reproduces in as little as 3 days.

Which UI Department of Biology researchers study this organism: 

Bryan Phillips

Sarit Smolikove

Veena Prahlad

Why UI Department of Biology researchers use this organism:

  • Understand how cells know what cell type to become. When cells do not differentiate properly, disease and development defects occur.
  •  Study how chromosomes segregate during meiosis, a special type of cell division necessary for sexual reproduction. When chromosomes do not segregate properly, birth defects can occur.
  • Examine properties of certain proteins associated with nervous system disorders including Huntington’s disease, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, and muscular dystrophy.