alternative to platinum wire worm pick?

Hello everyone,

For establishing a worm lab in a developing country where platinum maybe hard to get and/or be expensive, would it be possible to use an alternative cheaper material to use as worm pick? Something that while not working the best (like the expensive platinum) still would work decently?

When Sydney started working with worms, he used eyelash or eyebrow hair glued to a stick/toothpick. Not so easy to sterlize though…

I haven’t heard of any other metal other than platinum, though.


From what I recall hearing, I think the original method wasn’t even a glued-on eyelash or eyebrow hair (that was for touch assays) but instead just a toothpick, shaved down at the end so it was thin and flexible. Sterilization was I think done with ethanol?

Platinum wire is certainly expensive per unit mass, but it’s about $3 per inch, and an inch and a half can be used to make a pick that can last for years, to pick tens or hundreds of thousands of worms. You might try contacting Tritech and see if they’d be willing to sell in smaller amounts than their usual three foot length.

Other compositions of wire could work. I’ve heard of people using iron? The main drawbacks are that they may not dissipate heat as well, and may corrode more. Corrosion is bad not just because the pick has to be reshaped and possibly shortened, but also because when it corrodes it can spontaneously generate sharp edges that can damage worms and break the surface of the agar. And, hugely importantly, platinum remains malleable. We have a bunch of some wire, I don’t know the composition, an alloy that when you first use it looks and feels like platinum but that after being flamed a few times becomes completely rigid and impossible to reshape, as it corrodes. Not a good substitute. So, if you’re going to use another metal be careful and test it thoroughly, or be sure it’s worked for someone else.

Thank you very much!

The platinum:iridium alloy wire should be a bit cheaper, and I find has the benefit of staying firm longer than pure platinum wire.

Hi! I consulted an engineer and found and tested a VERY cheap alternative that works great!
" Worm pick note: To avoid the high cost of platinum wire, worm picks were made with 32g kanthal A-1 wire (250-foot roll for ~$7 on Amazon) after consultation with an engineer in Dr. Hastie’s family, Dr. L. Wynn Herron. Kanthal picks performed as well as platinum. Stainless steel was also tried, but the heating and cooling created continuous metal flaking."
We published it here with undergrads in a micropub titled " Wild Caught Nematode Identification and Early Embryo Development: An accessible undergraduate research experience"

1 Like