A robotic system for automated genetic manipulation and analysis of Caenorhabditis elegans on agar media


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The nematode C. elegans is one of the most widely studied organisms in biology due to its small size, rapid life cycle, and easily manipulated genetics. Research with C. elegans depends on labor-intensive and time-consuming manual procedures. Here we describe WormPicker, a robotic system capable of performing complex genetic manipulations and other tasks by imaging, phenotyping, and selectively transferring C. elegans on standard agar media. Our system uses a motorized stage to move an imaging system and a robotic arm over an array of plates. Machine vision algorithms identify worms and assay their phenotypes, and the robotic arm transfers worms between plates using an electrically self-sterilized wire loop. We developed software to enable the system to autonomously carry out complex protocols. We validated the effectiveness and versatility of our methods by automating a collection of common C. elegans procedures, including genetic crossing, genetic mapping, and genomic integration of a transgene. ### Competing Interest Statement A.D.F. and C.F.-Y. are shareholders in Tau Scientific Instruments LLC, which aims to commercialize the innovations described in this work.
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