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Vidal-Gadea Lab
Vidal-Gadea Lab
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Our research is focused in understanding how natural behavior emerges from the interaction between an organism's history (evolution), its genes, its nervous system, and its environment. Understanding of the basic principles governing these interactions will allow us to gain insight into how animals work (including humans). 

We use the nematode C. elegans as a model system because of its unmatched experimental amenability and because little is still understood about its natural behavior. ​​C. elegans has roughly the same number of genes as we do (20,000), about 60-80% of these genes are homologous to ours. This means that if there is a human process or disease that has a genetic component (that is, where genes can either directly or indirectly affect the process), there is a good chance that we can use C. elegans to study how genes contribute to such phenomena. 

Currently we are working several projects based on natural behaviors worms share with many other organisms, and on human pathologies for which the use of nematodes can be a useful genetic model: 
1) Molecular mechanisms of muscle degeneration and protection during Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
2) Animal detection and use the magnetic field or the earth.
3) Adaptation of molecular and genetic techniques to crustacean systems.
4) Effect of Martian magnetic and gravitational fields on earth life.
5) Molecular mechanisms of developmental and motor delay in Angelman's Syndrome.
6) Burrowing through semi-solid substrates.
7) Role of mechanoreceptors in proprioception.
8) Role of mechanoreceptors in locomotion.

Understanding the principles governing the production of successful behavior will generate insights that will be valuable in a wide variety of ways: from restoring motor function following injury or disease, to designing intelligent machines that can respond to unexpected environmental challenges.


  • 1R15AR068583-01A1. Vidal-Gadea (PI). 06/01/2016 - 05/31/2019. Genetic Repair of Muscular Degeneration Associated with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
  • Pre-tenure Faculty Initiative Grant - ISU. Vidal-Gadea (PI). Effects of Mars' magnetic and gravitational fields of terrestrial organisms. (2018)​.
  • College of Arts and Science Interdisciplinary Initiative Grant- ISU. Vidal-Gadea (PI). Harnessing our research programs to improve scientific literacy in our community. (2018)​.
  • New Faculty Initiative Grant - ISU. Vidal-Gadea (PI). Identification of a suppressor mutation responsible for the repair of mobility and the prevention of muscle degeneration in an animal model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. (2016).

Research​ Opportunities

In addition to the projects highlighted above, we are also interested in other related questions. If you are interested in joining our lab to work in one of these, or additional projects please contact us at:
Myo-3 worm.jpg 
C. elegans body wall musculature stained for f-actin (green); red muscle nuclei and mitochondria; and blue pharyngeal muscles overlaid on transmitted light photograph. The experimental amenability of C. elegans allows us to rapidly and affordably create transgenic strains such as this to study a wide array of processes. 

natural behavior.jpg 
Montage of a worm crawling to a puddle, swimming, and emerging from a puddle to crawl again. By developing new behavioral assays aimed at more closely matching the behavior of worms in their natural environment. This allows us to study processes and behaviors that were previously challenging or inaccessible to researchers.

A single swimming cycle filmed, digitized, and plotted as a curvature matrix. D: dorsal, V: ventral, A: anterior, P: posterior.

Custom built algorythms allow us to digitize and analuze the behavior of sinle animals (above), or population of animals (below) 
worm tracks.jpg 
Tracks showing the motion of freely behaving worms over a one minute period.