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Japanese began using worms to diagnose cancer

US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — Japanese scientists have developed a new method for detecting 15 types of cancer. According to experts, its accuracy reaches 85%. At the same time, diagnostics cost less than $ 90.

The main “protagonist” in the new diagnostic system is millimeter-sized nematode worms of the species Caenorhabditis elegans. The patient does not need to contact them: all that is required of him is to pass a urine sample.

Team selection is easy to explain. In search of alternative methods for diagnosing cancer, specialists have long paid attention to animal sniffers. For example, it was found that dogs and rats are literally able to sniff out oncological diseases.

Meanwhile, the olfactory abilities of nematodes are superior to canine ones: the first scents are one and a half times sharper than the second.

As explained Takaaki Hirotsu, president of Hirotsu Bio Science and one of the methods of development, it is based on the motor reactions of worms to chemical stimuli. The fact is that nematodes move to smells that they like and “run away” from smells that they dislike.

After examining the olfactory behavior of worms, experts found that the urine of patients with a particular cancer is “attracting” them and the urine of people without cancer is not very attractive.

Over the past two years, the team has conducted trials with biological samples obtained from 17 clinics throughout Japan.

It turned out that thanks to C. elegans worms, cancer can be detected in the very early stages. The technique was called N-NOSE (Nematode-NOSE, literally – “nematode nose”).

Takaaki Hirotsu noted that N-NOSE equipment is already used in many clinics in Japan, and foreign colleagues showed interest not only in the invention, but also in further joint work.

There is already a direction for them. The fact is that so far the “nematode method” indicates the presence of cancer, but does not allow to determine its type. Therefore, in the future, researchers want to teach worms to sniff out specific types of cancer, including those that are difficult to diagnose (for example, pancreatic cancer).

For this, you probably have to genetically modify the “diagnosticians”.

In an article recently published in the In vivo journal, Japanese scientists described their technique in detail and talked about its effectiveness in detecting cancer of the gastrointestinal tract.

The authors specify that, for experiments, C. elegans was cultivated in a Petri dish with agar and fed with E. coli.

For a diagnostic test, a urine sample was applied on one side of the cup, then several dozen worms were placed in its center. After half an hour, experts counted the nematodes that arrived at the site of application of the sample.

And in another study, presented in the journal Biomarkers in Cancer, researchers report that the N-NOSE technique can also be used after surgery to remove a malignant tumor to detect tumor markers in the body.

By the way, the work of “hiring worms” has been going on since 2015, and experts started talking about creating the first tests in 2019.

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Article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by News Observatory staff in our US newsroom.