Title

NemaLife chip: a micropillar-based microfluidic culture device optimized for aging studies in crawling C. elegans

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-1-2020

Abstract

© 2020, The Author(s). In this study, we report a microfluidic device for the whole-life culture of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans that allows the scoring of animal survival and health measures. This device referred to as the NemaLife chip features: (1) an optimized micropillar arena in which animals can crawl, (2) sieve channels that separate progeny and prevent the loss of adults from the arena during culture maintenance, and (3) ports that allow rapid accessibility for feeding the adult-only population and introducing reagents as needed. The pillar arena geometry was optimized to accommodate the growing body size during culture and emulate the body gait and locomotion of animals reared on agar. Likewise, feeding protocols were optimized to recapitulate longevity outcomes typical of standard plate growth. Key benefits of the NemaLife Chip include eliminating the need to perform repeated manual transfers of adults during survival assays, negating the need for progeny-blocking chemical interventions, and avoiding the swim-induced stress across lifespan in animals reared in liquid. We also show that the culture of animals in pillar-less microfluidic chambers reduces lifespan and introduces physiological stress by increasing the occurrence of age-related vulval integrity disorder. We validated our pillar-based device with longevity analyses of classical aging mutants (daf-2, age-1, eat-2, and daf-16) and animals subjected to RNAi knockdown of age-related genes (age-1 and daf-16). We also showed that healthspan measures such as pharyngeal pumping and tap-induced stimulated reversals can be scored across the lifespan in the NemaLife chip. Overall, the capacity to generate reliable lifespan and physiological data underscores the potential of the NemaLife chip to accelerate healthspan and lifespan investigations in C. elegans.

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