Artificial worm starts to wriggle

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A project to create artificial life has hit a key milestone – the simulated creature can now wriggle. The Open Worm project aims to build a lifelike copy of a nematode roundworm entirely out of computer code. This week the creature’s creators added code that gets the virtual worm wriggling like the real thing.

The next step is to hook the body up to a simulation of the worm’s brain to help understand more about how and why it moves. Swim speedThe Open Worm project started in May 2013 and is slowly working towards creating a virtual copy of the Caenorhabditis elegans nematode. This worm is one of the most widely studied creatures on Earth and was the first multicelled organism to have its entire genome mapped. The simulated worm slowly being built out of code aims to replicate C. elegans in exquisite detail with each of its 1,000 cells being modelled on computer.

Early work on the worm involved making a few muscle segments twitch but now the team has a complete worm to work with. The code governing how the creature’s muscles move has been refined so its swaying motion and speed matches that of its real life counterpart. The tiny C. elegans manages to move around in water at a rate of about 1mm per second.

“Its movement closely resembles published literature on how C. elegansswims,” project leader John Hurliman told the New World Notes blog. The immediate next step for the project is to plug in the system used to model how nerve fibres in the worm fire to get muscle segments twitching and propelling the whole creature forward. Soon the Open Worm creators hope to make a virtual version of C. elegansavailable online so people can interact with it via a web browser. Via bbc

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2 Responses to Artificial worm starts to wriggle

  1. Phil Krause says:

    This little 1mm long transparent worm without a brain is a model organism superstar. Samples had been taken to space inside the space shuttle Columbia which exploded in February 2003. These were later recovered and found to have survived this disaster. In 2009 others spent two weeks on the international space station. Descendants of the worms that survived the Columbia disaster in 2003 were launched into space on Endeavour for the STS-134 mission which was the penultimate space shuttle flight.
    A dedicated online database for the species is actively curated by scientists working in this field. The “WormBase” database attempts to collate all published information on C. elegans and other related nematodes. A reward for $4000 has been offered on their website, for the finder of a new species of closely related nematode.

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