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Cancer-Sniffing Worms

The Spring 2022 National American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting held in San Diego, California, was a hybrid meeting that featured a wide range of science topics. The offerings showcased the vast diversity of the chemical sciences and the increasingly integrated nature of the projects. 

Most people would not be surprised that dogs can be trained to sniff out cancer, but few would consider that a microscopic nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, might be used as an early detection method for lung cancer. Researchers at the Myongji University in Korea have shown that C. elegans does seem to prefer the smell of lung cancer cells. When placed on a microfluidic chip the size of a microscope slide, with lung cancer cells on one side and healthy cells on the other, the microscopic worms move toward the cancerous cells. Shin Sik Choi’s group hypothesizes that the flowery smell of the cancer cells is similar to the worm’s favorite food. They have also used urine samples from healthy people and those with lung cancer; again, the C. elegans migrated toward the urine from cancer patients. Just like using dogs, C. elegans provides a noninvasive way of detecting cancer at the earliest stages, when it is more treatable—but with an organism much easier to maintain than dogs. Researchers plan to test the usefulness of analyzing urine, saliva, and breath in these microfluidic devices containing C. elegans in clinical trials designed to detect early-stage lung and other cancers.

News briefing from the meeting:

https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2022/march/worm-on-a-chip-device-could-someday-help-diagnose-lung-cancer.html

 

Related American Chemical Society publications on this topic:

Japan harnesses creepy-crawlies
Katsumori Matsuoka

Exploring Living Multicellular Organisms, Organs, and Tissues Using Microfluidic Systems
Venkataragavalu Sivagnanam and Martin A. M. Gijs

Effect of Cannabidiol on the Neural Glyoxalase Pathway Function and Longevity of Several C. elegans Strains Including a C. elegans Alzheimer’s Disease Model
Joel Frandsen and Prabagaran Narayanasamy

 

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