In November 2021, he reported to you that researchers are working on a pancreatic cancer screening tool that will use genetically modified roundworms to identify early signs of the disease from just a drop of urine.
According to a press release published by Osaka University last month, scientists recently discovered that a certain type of microscopic worm, known as nematodes, can destroy cancer cells.
To do this, hydrogel-based "sheaths" are being applied to worms (cancer-killing agents), which can then be modified to carry the functional load.
In particular, Anisakis simplex, a tiny sea creature that lives on cancer cells, is one such nematode.
Wildan Mubarok, first author of the study, said in a publication that anisakis simplex has been observed to attach to malignant cells and perhaps recognize malignancy by smell.
This reveals that anti-cancer drugs can be delivered directly to cancer cells in the human body.
The researchers decided to explore a system for applying hydrogel sheaths to nematodes to create a gel-like layer throughout their bodies that would protect them against the cancer-killing agents they would carry.
The final product was a 0,01mm thick suit attached to the worms. What's even cooler is that it was completed in just 20 minutes.
Researcher Shinji Sakai claims that "the results are pretty clear." According to the study, “The sheaths were flexible enough to maintain the worms' motility and natural capacity to search for attractive odors and chemical signals.” “The sheaths did not interfere in any way with the survival of the worms.”
Scientists then tried injecting anti-cancer drugs into the worms. Normally parasitic worms can be harmed by this, but in this case the animals are protected by hydrogel armor.
Researchers discovered that the newly created worm could transport and administer anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells in vitro.
According to Mubarok, “Our results imply that nematodes could one day be used to transport functional cargoes to a variety of precise targets.”
This worm-based delivery method has potential uses not only for delivering anti-cancer drugs to tumor cells in patients, but also in other fields, such as delivering beneficial bacteria to plant roots. This is because of the versatility of hydrogel sheaths.
The research is still in its early stages and may encounter a number of problems as it evolves. Many people do not want parasitic worms in their body, which is another factor. Another concern is how to manage animals after they are injected into a human body. Still, it raises the possibility of a new and effective treatment for cancer.
Engineering the surfaces of biological organisms allows adding new functions and improving existing ones. However, research on surface engineering has only been done on single-celled organisms. Horseradish peroxidase (HRP), bound to worm cuticles, mediates in situ hydrogelation in this study to generate modified nematode surfaces. This technique is used to create hydrogel sheaths from a series of polysaccharides, proteins and synthetic polymers about 10 m thick. The viability, chemotaxis and locomotion of Caenorhabditis elegans and Anisakis simplex covered with a hydrogel sheath were only slightly affected. Nematodes were protected from ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide by hydrogel sheaths containing UV absorbable groups and catalase, respectively.
The results also demonstrated the potential of hydrogel sheaths containing glucose oxidase as living drug delivery systems for cancer therapy. The nematode functionalization approach established in this study has the potential to have an impact on a variety of industries, including agriculture and medicine.