Today’s Solutions: February 08, 2023

Early detection is an essential tool for treating cancer. Any time that doctors and technicians can shave off from testing or lab work saves lives. Even better are noninvasive and inexpensive tests, which benefit both the patient and the hospital. 

The noble nematode

You might remember nematodes from your high school biology class. They’re extremely small worms — about a millimeter in length — also known as roundworms. They’re easy to raise in a lab, and they have an absolutely incredible sense of smell,  much like dogs (or these ants). While it has been established that dogs can sniff out volatile organic compounds like cancer cells, it’s not exactly practical to keep a dog in a lab. A team of South Korean researchers decided instead to try nematodes. 

“Lung cancer cells produce a different set of odor molecules than normal cells,” says Shin Sik Choi, Ph.D., of Myongji University and the project’s principal investigator. “It’s well known that the soil-dwelling nematode, C. elegans, is attracted or repelled by certain odors, so we came up with an idea that the roundworm could be used to detect lung cancer.”

Choi and the team created a chip made silicon-based organic polymer with a well on each side and a chamber in the center that was connected by a channel to each well. In one well, they placed samples of cancerous lung cells, and in the other they placed normal lung cells. They placed the nematodes in the middle chamber. After only an hour, they noticed that more nematodes had gone toward the cancerous sample than the healthy one. 

How well can nematodes detect cancer? 

Using a control test of nematodes that were bred without smell, they found that the little roundworms had a 70 percent accuracy at detecting cancer cells in a diluted sample. There’s still much work to be done in reliable accuracy and the reason why nematodes are attracted to cancerous cells. The team guesses that the odors are similar to their preferred foods, like bacteria and fungus for some species. 

They plan to refine their tests using nematodes previously exposed to cancerous samples so that they have the memory for the right kind of tissue. They also plan to test urine, saliva, and even breathing samples from patients to refine the process even further while also expanding the number of non-invasive test samples. 

If these tiny worms prove consistently effective at detecting cancer in different samples and in early stages, they could be the wriggly heroes that detect patients’ cancer quickly, cheaply, and non-invasively. 

Source Study: ‘Worm-on-a-chip’ device could someday help diagnose lung cancer – American Chemical Society (

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

Australia is the first nation to acknowledge psychedelics as medicine

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration surprised researchers by approving the psychedelic chemicals found in magic mushrooms and MDMA for use by patients with specific mental health issues, ...

Read More

The top 9 mistakes people make when trying to establish a healthy routine

If you can’t figure out why you struggle to maintain a healthy routine, no worries. We have a story from Groom+Style that lists the ...

Read More

These wind turbine walls let cities harness wind power beautifully

One of the major downfalls of harnessing wind energy is that large-scale wind farms require lots of space, away from urban areas, and wind ...

Read More

Google puts data privacy back into users hands

Due to various political and healthcare data breaches setting off alarm bells, the general public is slowly realizing that their data is at risk ...

Read More