A high throughput system for searching for causes and treatments of human disease - or one year of playing with sick and fat worms
State of the art for high throughput screening is to culture cells in thousands of wells on multi-well plates, add a different potential drug to each well, stain the cells and image them by automated microscopy. After cell segmentation, feature extraction and classification, potential drugs which induce or repress phenotypes of interest can be isolated and further explored. This type of high throughput screening is used in academia and by pharmaceutical companies on a routine basis.
However, there is a big difference between how a single cell reacts to a drug, and how a human, consisting of a complex network of interacting cells, will react to that same drug. Systems such as immune response and metabolism are particularly difficult to study on a single-cell basis. As putting humans in to the multi-well plates is out of the question, a simpler yet sufficiently complex organism is needed to study general principles of multi-cell systems in high throughput.
I will present the worm /C. elegans/ and tell you how we use automated image analysis to search for new antibiotics and genes controlling fat metabolism.