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Micrographs that Touch a Nerve

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You might not think of worms when someone mentions neuroscience, but it turns out the tiny, transparent worm C. elegans is a great organism for studying the senses. That's in part because researchers have previously mapped the locations and synaptic connections of each of the 302 neurons of these 1mm long creatures.

More recently, researchers Juan Cueva and Miriam Goodman have performed studies using C. elegans to examine how certain touch receptor neurons are activated. They generated nearly 3300 electron micrographs of worm cross sections that have been preserved in the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR) and are now available for download and reuse by other researchers around the world (see below for links to the images).

Cueva and Goodman's research indicated it is unlikely that certain cellular structures called 15-protofilament microtubules are directly involved in activating sensory neurons in C. elegans, as had previously been proposed. A second study showed that a particular modification of these microtubules is required for them to form stable and uniform structures within the cell.

The micrographs Cueva and Goodman deposited into the SDR are a treasure trove of visual information. Since these researchers have finished analyzing the images based on their interests, they are now happy to share them with others. These images may hold the answers to many other research questions.

Using the Stanford Digital Repository was the obvious solution for managing these images for the long-term. The micrographs are knowledge-rich and storage-intensive. Having them available for download via the SDR makes it much easier for colleagues in other parts of the world to access the data for reuse. And the SDR preserves them for the long-term, so Cueva and Goodman can be sure the files will be accessible the next time someone wants to use them.

A great deal of time and skill is required to create the samples and perform the imaging to generate these data, not to mention the time required to create the mutant forms of C. elegans used in these studies. Preserving these micrographs in the SDR will help to ensure the maximum amount of knowledge can be mined from them in the future.

This Data Story was written by Amy Hodge.

Find out more about the microtubule data and transduction channel data featured in this Data Story.