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A Virtual Worm

The Kickstarter-funded OpenWorm project aims to develop a digital version of Caenorhabditis elegans that'll enable researchers to model the biomedical behavior of each of the worm's 959 cells, The Economist says.

The project, which is being spearheaded by a group of researchers from Russia, the UK, the US, and Canada, raised some $121,076 on Kickstarter earlier this week to develop this open-source C. elegans.

Since the C. elegans nervous system has already been well mapped, the Economist notes that OpenWorm could be used to develop a model of a nervous system in which drugs could be tested electronically.

To start with, though, the team is focusing on simulating muscle cells and neurons and comparing that with how the worm is known to behave. "The more kinds of behavior the electronic worm can accurately reproduce, the better it will be," The Economist adds.