The Caenorhabditis elegans Lifespan Machine

Nat Methods. 2013 Jul;10(7):665-70. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2475. Epub 2013 May 12.


The measurement of lifespan pervades aging research. Because lifespan results from complex interactions between genetic, environmental and stochastic factors, it varies widely even among isogenic individuals. The actions of molecular mechanisms on lifespan are therefore visible only through their statistical effects on populations. Indeed, survival assays in Caenorhabditis elegans have provided critical insights into evolutionarily conserved determinants of aging. To enable the rapid acquisition of survival curves at an arbitrary statistical resolution, we developed a scalable imaging and analysis platform to observe nematodes over multiple weeks across square meters of agar surface at 8-μm resolution. The automated method generates a permanent visual record of individual deaths from which survival curves are constructed and validated, producing data consistent with results from the manual method of survival curve acquisition for several mutants in both standard and stressful environments. Our approach permits rapid, detailed reverse-genetic and chemical screens for effects on survival and enables quantitative investigations into the statistical structure of aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Survival Analysis*
  • Survival Rate*
  • Video Recording / methods*