Genetically modified small worms can detect pancreatic cancer at an early stage

A Japanese biotech startup called Hirotsu Bio Science Inc. develop a cancer screening test using genetically modified roundworms to detect early signs of pancreatic cancer from just one drop of urine.

Technological advances are an important leap forward for cancer research, as pancreatic cancer is usually detected after it has spread and when treatment options are limited. This means that for the majority of patients, the diagnosis is a death sentence.

However, with an extremely accurate new test, things may change with the detection of pancreatic cancer and possibly other cancers.

Smelling cancer

Takaaki Hirotsu, the company’s CEO, has developed a high-precision method for detecting cancer using a nematode Caenorhabditis elegans in 2015, according to The Japan Times; until the latest discovery, however, they failed to identify specific forms of cancer.

According to a recent study published in a peer-reviewed journal Oncotarget, the company studied the olfactory receptors of the nematode and found a gene that responds only to the urine of patients with pancreatic cancer. In fact, when this gene is deactivated, roundworms are attracted to the urine of people with lung, stomach and other cancers, but not to the urine of people with pancreatic cancer. The worms were able to successfully identify all 22 urine samples from patients with pancreatic cancer, including those in the early stages of the disease, in independent tests undertaken by the company.

The company claims that this method is 100 percent accurate in detecting pancreatic cancer and 91.3 percent for other types of The Japanese Times; however, there must be more research before it can be said with certainty. It should also be noted that these tests are not intended to diagnose pancreatic cancer, but rather to enhance routine screening, as urine samples are relatively easy and do not require a hospital visit.

The method needs to be further tested, but researchers believe that early detection of pancreatic cancer using C. elegans “can certainly be expected in the near future,” per Medscape.

This is great news, because pancreatic cancer, although the 14th most common cancer in the world, is one of the deadliest, killing more than 430,000 people each year. According to nature. The disease is projected to become the second leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States by 2030, and in the European Union, disease-related mortality is expected to increase by about 50% by 2025, compared to 2010 levels. However, with early detection, we can succeed push the boundaries of cancer researchand the diagnosis may no longer be synonymous with death.

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