The C. elegans worm is a favorite of cellular researchers, paradoxically, because it is at once simple and complex. It has a functioning nervous system, but the worm itself is made up of less than 1000 cells, the lineage of which has been mapped for each one. That means researchers know what to expect out of just about every individual part of the animal down to the cellular level. So when they discovered that just two neurons were responsible for the other 957 cells' behavior in stress situations, they were quite surprised. By genetically shutting down the heat-sensing ability of those neurons, they found that no other cell subsequently responded to temperature stresses.
In more complicated organisms then, neurons may be responsible for coordinating local networks of cells to respond to stress, which if true, could help us better understand diseases which affect those pathways.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.