Lab Affiliations

All Publications

  • Characterization of DEGT-1: A DEG/ENaC/ASIC Ion Channel Subunit Involved in Touch Sensation Fechner, S., Loizeau, F., Nekimken, A. L., D'Alessandro, I., Pruitt, B. L., Goodman, M. B. CELL PRESS. 2018: 157A
  • Using a Microfluidics Device for Mechanical Stimulation and High Resolution Imaging of C. elegans JOVE-JOURNAL OF VISUALIZED EXPERIMENTS Fehlauer, H., Nekimken, A. L., Kim, A. A., Pruitt, B. L., Goodman, M. B., Krieg, M. 2018


    One central goal of mechanobiology is to understand the reciprocal effect of mechanical stress on proteins and cells. Despite its importance, the influence of mechanical stress on cellular function is still poorly understood. In part, this knowledge gap exists because few tools enable simultaneous deformation of tissue and cells, imaging of cellular activity in live animals, and efficient restriction of motility in otherwise highly mobile model organisms, such as the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. The small size of C. elegans makes them an excellent match to microfluidics-based research devices, and solutions for immobilization have been presented using microfluidic devices. Although these devices allow for high-resolution imaging, the animal is fully encased in polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and glass, limiting physical access for delivery of mechanical force or electrophysiological recordings. Recently, we created a device that integrates pneumatic actuators with a trapping design that is compatible with high-resolution fluorescence microscopy. The actuation channel is separated from the worm-trapping channel by a thin PDMS diaphragm. This diaphragm is deflected into the side of a worm by applying pressure from an external source. The device can target individual mechanosensitive neurons. The activation of these neurons is imaged at high-resolution with genetically-encoded calcium indicators. This article presents the general method using C. elegans strains expressing calcium-sensitive activity indicator (GCaMP6s) in their touch receptor neurons (TRNs). The method, however, is not limited to TRNs nor to calcium sensors as a probe, but can be expanded to other mechanically-sensitive cells or sensors.

    View details for PubMedID 29553526

  • Microfluidics for mechanobiology of model organisms. Methods in cell biology Kim, A. A., Nekimken, A. L., Fechner, S., O'Brien, L. E., Pruitt, B. L. 2018; 146: 217–59


    Mechanical stimuli play a critical role in organ development, tissue homeostasis, and disease. Understanding how mechanical signals are processed in multicellular model systems is critical for connecting cellular processes to tissue- and organism-level responses. However, progress in the field that studies these phenomena, mechanobiology, has been limited by lack of appropriate experimental techniques for applying repeatable mechanical stimuli to intact organs and model organisms. Microfluidic platforms, a subgroup of microsystems that use liquid flow for manipulation of objects, are a promising tool for studying mechanobiology of small model organisms due to their size scale and ease of customization. In this work, we describe design considerations involved in developing a microfluidic device for studying mechanobiology. Then, focusing on worms, fruit flies, and zebrafish, we review current microfluidic platforms for mechanobiology of multicellular model organisms and their tissues and highlight research opportunities in this developing field.

    View details for PubMedID 30037463

  • Forces applied during classical touch assays for Caenorhabditis elegans PLOS ONE Nekimken, A. L., Mazzochette, E. A., Goodman, M. B., Pruitt, B. L. 2017; 12 (5)


    For decades, Caenorhabditis elegans roundworms have been used to study the sense of touch, and this work has been facilitated by a simple behavioral assay for touch sensation. To perform this classical assay, an experimenter uses an eyebrow hair to gently touch a moving worm and observes whether or not the worm reverses direction. We used two experimental approaches to determine the manner and moment of contact between the eyebrow hair tool and freely moving animals and the forces delivered by the classical assay. Using high-speed video (2500 frames/second), we found that typical stimulus delivery events include a brief moment when the hair is contact with the worm's body and not the agar substrate. To measure the applied forces, we measured forces generated by volunteers mimicking the classical touch assay by touching a calibrated microcantilever. The mean (61 μN) and median forces (26 μN) were more than ten times higher than the 2-μN force known to saturate the probability of evoking a reversal in adult C. elegans. We also considered the eyebrow hairs as an additional source of variation. The stiffness of the sampled eyebrow hairs varied between 0.07 and 0.41 N/m and was correlated with the free length of hair. Collectively, this work establishes that the classical touch assay applies enough force to saturate the probability of evoking reversals in adult C. elegans in spite of its variability among trials and experimenters and that increasing the free length of the hair can decrease the applied force.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0178080

    View details for Web of Science ID 000401672600044

    View details for PubMedID 28542494

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5438190

  • Pneumatic stimulation of C. elegans mechanoreceptor neurons in a microfluidic trap. Lab on a chip Nekimken, A. L., Fehlauer, H., Kim, A. A., Manosalvas-Kjono, S. N., Ladpli, P., Memon, F., Gopisetty, D., Sanchez, V., Goodman, M. B., Pruitt, B. L., Krieg, M. 2017


    New tools for applying force to animals, tissues, and cells are critically needed in order to advance the field of mechanobiology, as few existing tools enable simultaneous imaging of tissue and cell deformation as well as cellular activity in live animals. Here, we introduce a novel microfluidic device that enables high-resolution optical imaging of cellular deformations and activity while applying precise mechanical stimuli to the surface of the worm's cuticle with a pneumatic pressure reservoir. To evaluate device performance, we compared analytical and numerical simulations conducted during the design process to empirical measurements made with fabricated devices. Leveraging the well-characterized touch receptor neurons (TRNs) with an optogenetic calcium indicator as a model mechanoreceptor neuron, we established that individual neurons can be stimulated and that the device can effectively deliver steps as well as more complex stimulus patterns. This microfluidic device is therefore a valuable platform for investigating the mechanobiology of living animals and their mechanosensitive neurons.

    View details for DOI 10.1039/c6lc01165a

    View details for PubMedID 28207921

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5360562

  • Physical, structural, and dehydrogenation properties of ammonia borane in ionic liquids RSC ADVANCES Nakagawa, T., Burrell, A. K., Del Sesto, R. E., Janicke, M. T., Nekimken, A. L., Purdy, G. M., Paik, B., Zhong, R., Semelsberger, T. A., Davis, B. L. 2014; 4 (42): 21681-21687

    View details for DOI 10.1039/c4ra01455c

    View details for Web of Science ID 000337123100002