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Computer Worms


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The worm known as Caenorhabditis elegans.

The OpenWorm project is focused on developing a simulated version of the C. elegans worm.

Credit: Wikimedia

The informal, crowd-funded OpenWorm project aims to develop the world's first simulated organism, a worm known as Caenorhabditis elegans.

With the participation of international biologists and computer scientists, OpenWorm in May raised $121,076 on a crowd-funding website.

C. elegans is one of the best-understood organisms in biology, and scientists know the location and the function of all its cells. The researchers plan to create a bottom-up model of the biochemical behavior of the worm's cells and their interactions. If the model is successful, the organism's behavior patterns and movement should emerge as a result of the interactions.

Initially, the researchers will work on systems to simulate the worm's muscle cells, neuron behavior, and electrical impulse movement. Using physics algorithms, the team will create a simulated Petri dish for the worm. The virtual worm's behavior will be compared to that of the actual organism via a database of about 12,000 C. elegans videos. The model will be flexible enough to adjust on the fly and modify as science advances.

OpenWorm could significantly advance biological and medical research, including efforts to model the human brain.

From The Economist
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