Polish scientists say their ongoing research into the potential use of earthworms' coelomic fluid to one day treat lung cancer is revealing promising results. Amy Pollock reports.
These wriggly worms are reared in optimal conditions in a lab. Just like average earthworms, they're capable of digesting any micro-organism - including pathogenic ones. And Polish scientists think the digestive fluid that helps them do that could one day be used to treat lung cancer. The researchers at the Maria Curie-Sklodowska University extract coelomic fluid with 4.5 volts of electricity. It's filtered and heated to 70 degrees Celsius and cooled before being stored in a freezer. Lab tests showed that the coelomic fluid damaged A549 lung cancer cells in 75-80 percent of cases, leaving normal cells unharmed. SOUNDBITE (Polish) DEPARTMENT AND FACULTY OF BIOLOGY WITH GENETICS OF MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF LUBLIN, PROF JOLANTA RZYMOWSKA, SAYING: "The initial conditions are crucial - choosing the correct temperature that influences the protein-sugar system in a way that it becomes a selective formulation that do not damage normal cells. However, why is it happening?" While the compound produced by earthworms is capable of killing cancer cells in the lab, much more research is needed. SOUNDBITE (Polish) DEPARTMENT AND FACULTY OF BIOLOGY WITH GENETICS OF MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF LUBLIN, PROF JOLANTA RZYMOWSKA, SAYING: "The results are pleasing. Destroying the cells in the system outside the organism in 80 percent of cancer cells is a result that makes us want to examine it more. It now needs to be transferred to animal tests." The Polish team will need to identify active components of the worm's coelomic fluid for further testing. Lung cancer is the second most common form of the disease in both men and women, accounting for 14 percent of new diagnoses.