WormGUIDES is a consortium of biologists, computer scientists and microscopists seeking to create a novel systems-level resource that will facilitate examination of cellular decisions in the developing nervous system of the nematode C. elegans. C. elegans stands out as the only organism in which the challenge of understanding cellular origins of an entire nervous system could, in practice, be addressed from all angles—cell birth, migration and differentiation; neurite formation, targeted outgrowth and bundling; synapse formation and tuning of functional circuits—with subcellular resolution, for all cells, from conception until hatching. But even for C. elegans, a gap exists in our understanding of the dynamic cellular events leading to the correct wiring of the connectome. The mission of WormGUIDES is to address this gap in knowledge by developing new technologies for capturing early neurodevelopmental events, and new methods for analyzing and sharing systems-level datasets with the community.
Completion of the WormGUIDES resource will result in the first neurodevelopmental atlas, with subcellular resolution, mapping all cells, for a metazoan. This resource will ultimately complement the existing cell lineage, adult nervous system structure, and collective genomic and genetic data for the worm, creating a fourth pillar of systems-level knowledge that will enhance our understanding of neurodevelopment.