Building Tools for Rotifer Research

Rotifers have been shown to be useful for phenotypic and mechanistic research. Published biomedically-relevant studies include investigations of congeneric variability in lifespan response to caloric restriction and low temperature, drug and natural product screens, studies of maternal effects on offspring health and lifespan, work on the molecular mechanisms of aging and lifespan extension, and studies of the transcriptomics of aging.  

Platforms for automated lifespan and health-span experiments 

Despite the appeal of rotifers as a model system, current methods for longitudinal rotifer studies are labor intensive and prone to operator variability. This limits progress, increases expense, and prevents other researchers from adopting the rotifer model. Ultimately, this slows progress in the field. There is thus a critical need for high-throughput, automated tools for investigating rotifer lifespan, reproduction, health, and behavior, to increase experimental capacity and rigor in the rotifer system. In a collaborative project with Jacob Robinson from Rice University, we are designing and testing microfluidics chambers and imaging platforms that will allow semi-automated, higher throughput experimentation. 

Microfluidics chambers, imaging platforms, and behavior tracking analyses will be used for longitudinal quantification of lifespan, reproduction, motility, and stress response of individual rotifers in our research on aging and maternal effects. 

Swimming behavior and speed of individual rotifers can be tracked using video and semi-automated behavior tracking software. 

Genome editing in rotifers 

Additionally, there are currently no protocols for genome editing in rotifers, and thus no knockout or transgenic strains. This restricts our ability to use rotifers to investigate specific cellular processes and molecular mechanisms. In collaboration with David Mark Welch at the MBL, we are developing methods for CRISPR genome editing in rotifers.  

A young female rotifer is microinjected with gRNA and Cas9 protein to induce CRISPR gene editing in the germline. 

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