According to a recent Phys.org article, a certain type of worm could lead to improved diagnostics for lung cancer. A team of scientists found that the C. elegans, a type of roundworm, are able to follow an odor trail to seek out cancer cells. With this knowledge, they developed a “worm-on-a-chip” that could offer a noninvasive solution for diagnosing cancer earlier than imaging tests or biopsies.
The chip is made of polydimethylsiloxane elastomer and has wells at each end that are connected to a central chamber via channels. The researchers placed the chip on an agar plate and added cancerous cells to one end, and normal cells to the other. Worms were then placed in the central chamber, and after about an hour the researchers observed that more worms crawled toward the cancerous well than the normal one. By their estimation, the test was about 70% effective at detecting cancer cells, but they hope to improve that by using worms that had previous exposure to cancer, and a “memory” of the odor molecules.