Researchers investigate efficacy of worm-on-a-chip device to diagnose lung cancer


Dogs possess an incredible sense of smell to sniff out various forms of cancer in human blood, breath, and urine samples. In the same way, in the lab, the roundworm wriggles toward cancer cells by following an odor trail.

In a new development, scientists throw light on a new device that uses tiny worms to diagnose lung cancer cells. It is perceived this ‘worm-on-a-chip’ could someday help doctors diagnose cancer at an early stage noninvasively.

The presentation of the research is scheduled for the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Clinically, early detection of cancer is crucial for effective treatment and survival, stated one of the research associates who will be presenting the work at the meeting. This requires cancer screening methods to be quick, easy, non-invasive, and economical.

At present, doctors use imaging tests or biopsies to detect lung cancer, however these methods mostly do not detect tumors at the earliest stages. While, dogs have the ability to sniff out cancer, it is practically not possible to keep them in labs.

This nudged the principal investigator of the project to use worms called nematodes. The creatures are tiny, easy to cultivate in the lab, and have an extraordinary sense of smell to develop non-invasive cancer diagnostic test.

Evidently, lung cancer cells produce a different set of odor than normal cells. In fact, it is well known that soil-dwelling nematode is repelled or attracted by certain odors, so this sprung the idea of using roundworm to be used in the detection of lung cancer.

In alternate investigations, researchers put nematodes in petri dishes and put in drops of human urine to observe that the worms favoured to wriggle toward urine samples of cancer patients.

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