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Monday, November 14, 2011

Baby worms... WTF. Plus David Attenborough and the giant Australian earthworm!

Hi all,

So I just finished some histology on baby worms and all I have to say is...WTF. Their innards don't look like the adults at all! See my previous post for the comparison!
Here is the cross-section of a baby worm, I think the dark green patches are bundles of muscle

Here is a sagittal earthworm section (a worm cut in 2 along its long axis).. The bristly end is where its mouth is. Weird, huh?

 I think the little bundles I am seeing are muscle, but there is this weird green goo inside them as well. I now have to scour through old Russian and German tomes from the 1700s to see if anyone did baby earthworm histology. No luck so far. Why do you have to make my life so complicated baby worms? Now I will murder you all...seriously.

On a lighter note, I found a video of David Attenborough showing the giant Australian earthworm! The gurgle sounds remind me of a bad bowel movement...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Histology (Part 2): THE EPIC CONCLUSION

So now that you have ogled and marveled at worm babies, I must sadly announce I have murdered several of them in the name of science. I'm afraid there is no way to cut open a worm and measure its innards without killing it. Yes I am indeed a horrible, heartless worm serial killer. But at least now I can use these measurements to predict how baby worms move and generate forces when they burrow! Okay, so it's not much of a consolation...

So last we left off, I had boozed and killed and chopped it into pieces and put the pieces in a jar. Where did I put the jars? Where any crazy person puts body parts, the fridge!

I put the worm parts in the 'meat' drawer.
So now that I have parts I need to cut them, but as you know worms are floppy, so I need to put them in hard stuff to make cutting them easier. Usually histologists use wax, but I am fancy and use plastic (more specifically, glycol methacrylate or GMA) so there isn't any heat that could distort the worm body. All I do is fill molds up with a plastic goo that hardens with time and shove my worm parts in.
Worms in Han Solo in carbonite... minus the possibility of surviving the  process

So once I have a nice hunk of worm in plastic, I use a cutting machine called a microtome to take very thin sections of worm in plastic. Here is a vid of the microtime cutting one sheet of worm:

You'll notice the knife I use to cut the sheet is made out of glass. Yeah, that's right. I make and use glass knives. I'm a badass.

I then take the thin worm slices and heat them on slides so they stick to the slides. The final step once I have worm slides is to dye them so I can tell what is what in the worm body. The dye I use is a mix of acid and powders. The dry form of this acid is EXPLOSIVE. It is a small miracle my lab still exists after I tinker with the stuff.
bombs,cartoons,dissatisfied,emotions,errors,explosions,gestures,mistakes,people,problems,Screen BeansĀ®

Here are some slides in dye...
You can see I accidentally spilled some dye above the tray when I put the slides in . Shh, don't tell my boss!  

And here is the final product!
Cross section of a worm. You can see the worm has 2 types of muscles, I will talk more about how they work soon!

Sagittal (cut from head to tail) section of a worm. The septa you see is a muscular barrier that isolated the body cavity of each segment. More on this soon!

 Now I measure the inside dimensions of the worm! From this data I can predict the effects of its body dimensions on its movement and force. My plan is to test these predictions later on with movement and force recording to see if they match up to what I predict. If my predictions don't match what I see, then worms are even more complicated than we thought! And you thought they were just spineless poop machines, for shame...

Notice how my worm slides are red and green, like Christmas colors!  Who wouldn't want worm slides for Christmas?? Okay, okay, I am kidding. Instead you will get a corny Christmas card or something.

Your favorite body part hacker,

The 'Dirty' Scientist