These newly designed parasitic worms can kill cancer cells

These newly designed parasitic worms can kill cancer cells

In November 2021, we brought you news of scientists developing a cancer-detection test using genetically modified roundworms to detect early signs of pancreatic cancer from just a drop of urine.

Now, researchers from Osaka University have discovered that a certain type of microscopic worms known as nematodes can kill cancer cells, according to a press release from the foundation published last month. To achieve this, the worms must be covered with hydrogel-based “shells” that can be further engineered to transport functional cargo (carcinogens).

A worm that lives in the seas and searches for cancer cells

One of these types of nematodes is Simple Anisaki A microscopic marine creature is particularly fond of cancer cells.

Simple Anisaki Sensing cancer has been reported, possibly by detecting the “smell” of cancer, and attachment to cancerous tissue, Wildan Mabrouk, the study’s first author, said in the statement. “This led us to wonder if it could be used to deliver anti-cancer therapies directly to cancer cells within the human body.”

The researchers decided to investigate a system for applying hydrogel sheaths to nematodes in order to create a gel-like layer all over their bodies that would protect them from the cancer-killing substances they would be equipped to carry. The end results were nematodes with a prosthesis measuring 0.01 mm in thickness. Even cooler, the whole process only took 20 minutes.

“The results were very clear,” says Shinji Sakai, senior author of the study. “The wrappings did not in any way interfere with the survival of the worms and were flexible enough to preserve the worms’ motility and natural ability to search for attractive odors and chemical cues.”

Anticancer agents are delivered directly to cancer cells

Next, the researchers experimented with applying anticancer agents to nematodes. Normally, this would be harmful to helminths, but in this case, the creatures were protected by their hydrogel shield. Scientists have found that the newly designed worm can then transport and deliver anti-cancer agents in order to kill cancer cells in the laboratory.

“Our findings suggest that nematodes could potentially be used to deliver functional cargo to a range of specific targets in the future,” Mubarak says. “Given the adaptability of hydrogel sheaths, this worm-based delivery system holds promise not only for delivering anti-cancer drugs to cancer cells in patients, but also has potential applications in other areas such as the delivery of beneficial bacteria to plant roots.”

The research is still in its early stages and may encounter many problems during development. There is a fact that many people do not want parasitic worms in their systems. There is also the question of how to control the creatures once they are given to the human body. However, in terms of cancer treatments, it offers hope for a new and effective solution.

The study was published in the journal ScienceDirect.

Summary:

Surface engineering of biological organisms allows the introduction of new functions and enhances their original functions. However, studies on surface geometry have remained limited to unicellular organisms. Here, nematode surfaces are designed by On site Hydrolysis mediated by horseradish peroxidase (HRP) immobilized on the cuticle of nematodes. Using this method, hydrogel shells approximately 10 μm thick are synthesized from a variety of polysaccharides, proteins, and synthetic polymers. Certain types are elegant And the Simple Anisaki The hydrogel envelope-coated showed negligible reduction in viability, chemotaxis and motility. Hydrogel sheaths containing UV absorbent and catalase groups act as shields to protect nematodes from UV radiation and hydrogen peroxide, respectively. The results also demonstrated that hydrogel shells containing glucose oxidase have the potential to be used as live drug delivery systems for cancer therapy. The mode of operation of the nematodes developed in this study has the potential to affect a wide range of fields from agriculture to medicine.


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