As a model organism, the 1 mm long roundworm C. elegans has been the main protagonist in many biological researches for many years. Now it turns out to be a tool in itself.
Detecting diseases such as cancer as early as possible can be vital for the patient. It is not yet easy to detect indented tumors using most methods. It is already known that dogs with their great sense of smell can detect cancer in humans, and it also appears that a small worm has a nose for this.
The researchers studied whether the C. elegans worm – known for its strong response to smell – could detect lung cancer. They placed the creatures on a slide with two tunnels, one leading to healthy cells of the lungs and the other to diseased cells, and they saw that most of the worms crawled toward the cancerous cells.
This method is not yet so accurate that it can be used, but scientists think they are working on something. They hope to be able to train the worms further and look for exactly which scent molecules they are attracted to.
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