The microscopic roundworm, C. elegans, is an excellent model for understanding how cells divide, develop, and take on specialized tasks in higher (eukaryotic) organisms.
C. elegans is a microscopic roundworm. Although some roundworms are parasitic, C. elegans is free-living. Like E. coli, these worms grow quickly – from embryo to adult in three days – are easy to culture, and can be stored in a freezer. C. elegans is a simple animal with only about 1,000 cells, and scientists know exactly how each of these cells develops from the fertilized egg. C. elegans was the first multi-cellular organism to have its entire genome sequenced, with the surprising finding that 40% of its genes have human matches. Any of the organism’s genes can be “knocked down” using the technique of RNA interference (RNAi). Mating animals, isolating genes, and introducing foreign DNA is much easier than in more complicated animals. All of these features make C. elegans a great model for understanding how cells divide, develop, and take on specialized tasks in higher (eukaryotic) organisms.
Each model organism has its own advantages and disadvantages. Choosing an appropriate model depends on the question being asked. Many laboratories find it useful to perform parallel experiments in two or more model systems to understand different aspects