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The nematode C. elegans as an alternative model in toxicology

The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) has been used for more than 50 years in basic research as a favored model organism for the investigation of a wide range of physiological processes. The Bf3R is investigating its applicability as an alternative test system to animal experiments in toxicology to identify potential health risks of industrial chemicals and pesticides, in particular, on development and fertility.

In the past, C. elegans were mainly used as genetic models and to elucidate mechanistic principles of (patho-) physiology. For example, the basic mechanisms of programmed cell death were discovered in C. elegans, which also play an important role in humans, for example in embryonic development or carcinogenesis. In addition, the molecular mechanisms underlying other complex diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, or metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes, have been studied using C. elegans.  

Use of C. elegans as an alternative method for toxicological questions

The focus of the Bf3R is the use of C. elegans as an alternative model for toxicological questions that are difficult to address in simpler in vitro models. This includes, among other things, the investigation of influences of industrial chemicals and pesticides on the worms’ development and fertility to detect and analyze potential reprotoxic effects of these substances. In addition, the Bf3R is using the nematodes to characterize the activity of substances that might also cause potentially harmful effects in the offspring and following generations.

Grafik C. elegans

(L1) Adult nematode with eggs and offspring at first larval stage
green: staining of fat droplets, white: cell nucleus staining.

 

Further reading:

Wittkowski, P.; Violet, N.; Oelgeschläger, M.; Schönfelder, G.; Vogl, S. A quantitative medium-throughput assay to measure Caenorhabditis elegans development and reproduction. STAR Protocols 2020;1:100224. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666166720302112

Wittkowski, P.; Marx-Stoelting, P.; Violet, N.; Fetz, V.; Schwarz, F.; Oelgeschläger, M.; Schönfelder, G.; Vogl, S. Caenorhabditis elegans As a Promising Alternative Model for Environmental Chemical Mixture Effect Assessment - A Comparative Study. Environ Sci Technol 2019;53:12725-12733. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.9b03266

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