NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) is always excited by new citizen science opportunities, where members of the general public can help scientists solve big mysteries. Now a new Zooniverse project has been launched in association with the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Medical Research Foundation (MRF): Worm Watch Lab, where you can help scientists solve mysteries of the brain by watching 30-second videos of microscopic worms and hitting your keyboard when the worms lay eggs.
The project is part of a super-basic biology study that takes a first look at what different genes do. The worms are Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode species that geneticists often use in first-line studies about genes. However, Worm Watch Lab believes that this kind of study could eventually lead to a better understanding of genes that are important to human health. Humans share their genes with lab animal species, including rats, mice, fruit flies and undoubtedly, the C. elegans. When researchers try to understand a gene, they often check how the gene functions in lab animals. They breed animals with mutations in that gene and then observe what happens.
Worm egg-laying is a first-line way for geneticists to study certain brain circuits. So now researchers want people to check whether the worms lay eggs more or less often than usual. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know how much egg-laying is “usual.” You just need to mark when the worms lay eggs. You can check out the project Worm Watch Lab on Zooniverse.