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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.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.