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Inducing Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in C. elegans via Cavitation-Free Surface Acoustic Wave-Driven Ultrasonic Irradiation.


Mild traumatic brain injury is an all-too-common outcome from modern warfare and sport, and lacks a reproducible model for assessment of potential treatments and protection against it. Here we consider the use of surface acoustic wave (SAW) irradiation of C. elegans worms-without cavitation-as a potential, ethically reasonable animal-on-a-chip model for inducing traumatic brain injury in an animal, producing significant effects on memory and learning that could prove useful in a model that progress from youth to old age in but a few weeks. We show a significant effect by SAW on the ability of worms to learn post-exposure through associative learning chemotaxis. At higher SAW intensity, we find immediate, thorough, but temporary paralysis of the worms. We further explore the importance of homogeneous exposure of the worms to the SAW-driven ultrasound, an aspect poorly controlled in past efforts, if at all, and demonstrate the absence of cavitation through a change in fluids from a standard media for the worms to the exceedingly viscous polyvinyl alcohol. Likewise, we demonstrate that acoustic streaming, when present, is not directly responsible for paralysis nor learning disabilities induced in the worm, but is beneficial at low amplitudes to ensuring homogeneous ultrasound exposure.

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