Scientists have discovered how to fit worms in hydrogel suits that allow them to carry cancer drugs to tumours. Researchers from Osaka University found that coating nematodes, ranging in size from microscopic to just a millimetre in length, in a hydrogel-based sheath can allow scientists to make the worms carry various kinds of cargo. One of the potential cargo that these microscopic worms can carry is cancer drugs that can be directly reach to cancerous cells.
“A. simplex has been reported to sense cancer, potentially by detecting cancer “odour,” and to attach to cancerous tissues,” said Wildan Mubarok, one of the authors of the study that was published in the journal Materials Today Bio.
“This led us to ask whether it could be used to deliver anti-cancer treatments directly to tumour cells within the human body,” he added.
Anisakis simplex is one species of nematode that is typically found in marine environments but can infect humans when consumed. While nearly a third of all nematodes are parasitic in nature, they’re also one of the most prevalent biological beings on the planet.
The scientists dipped the worms in a series of chemicals to create a binding hydrogel-based sheath. The sheath is about 0.01 mm thick and worms can be suited up in just 20 minutes. The sheaths didn’t negatively affect the worms’ mobility or their ability to smell chemical signals. The team of researchers then added functional molecules to protect the worms from ultraviolet light or hydrogen peroxide.
“Our findings suggest that nematodes could potentially be used to deliver functional cargo to a range of specific targets in the future,” stated Mubarok.
With the flexibility and the sheer number of different nematode species around, the hydrogel armour can be used by scientists for various other uses. Potential applications will be based on the basic function of carrying one material to target sites without invasive procedures.