13.10.2017 change 13.11.2017

Lublin/Earthworm preparation can help in the development of a lung cancer drug

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

The preparation from coelomic fluid obtained from earthworms, which can be used in the development of a medicine for lung cancer, has been obtained by scientists from two Lublin universities. The invention has already been patented.

Researchers from the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University and Medical University of Lublin jointly developed a preparation derived from coelomic fluid that, in in vitro studies, destroys lung cancer cells at 80 percent and at the same time is not toxic to normal cells.

The preparation will be subjected to further tests to determine whether it can be used to develop a drug. "We are at the finish of the first stage of research on cells grown outside the body. The next step is to study the effect of these preparations on the organism of laboratory animals. The third stage involves administering it to the human body" - explained Prof. Jolanta Rzymowska from the Chair and Department of Biology with Genetics of the Medical University of Lublin.

The professor emphasized that after all the studies, depending on their results, the possible clinical application of the invented substance can be discussed.

The toxic effect of the fluid obtained from the earthworm coelom has already been described by scientists. According to Dr. Marta Fiołka from the Department of Immunobiology of the Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, it is known from publications that this fluid is very toxic, causing red blood cells to break apart in minutes. It is toxic to both A549 lung cancer cells and normal bronchial epithelial cells. "We decided to look for conditions that allow to eliminate the cytotoxicity to normal cells while preserving as much anti-tumour activity as possible" - she said.

Dr. Fiołka said that this was achieved by heating the fluid and obtaining the right protein concentration in the preparation. The mechanism of selective action of the coelomic fluid - toxic to cancer cells and non-toxic to normal cells - is the subject of further research.

Coelomic fluid is obtained by subjecting the earthworm to a short electrical shock of 4.5 volts. According to Dr. Fiolek, this is a weak electric shock and the earthworm survives it by ejecting the coelomic fluid along with blood cells through the holes on the side of the body of the earthworm. These cells are then separated by centrifugation and the coelomic fluid is filtered through bacteriological filters to remove any microorganisms. Thus isolated, the fluid is heated to eliminate normal cell toxicity. The concentration of protein is determined and the resulting preparation is used for further research. About 100 microliter of coelomic fluid can be obtained from a single earthworm. "These are very small amounts" - pointed out Fiołka.

Researchers emphasise that it is too early to determine how much fluid would be needed to produce a drug. It is not yet known, for example, in what concentrations the fluid will be effective in laboratory animals. Researchers cooperate with an agro-industrial company from Słupsk to obtain a large number of earthworms, which will provide sufficient amount of coelomic fluid for further experiments.

It is unknown how long further research may take. "Our enthusiasm pushes us to continue our research, although it must be moderate, because at this stage it can not yet be said that it will be a therapeutic preparation. This is the preliminary phase of laboratory research" - emphasised Prof. Rzymowska.

The invention of Lublin scientists has been patented by the Polish Patent Office under the name of "Dendrobin veneta coelomic fluid for use in the treatment of lung cancer". The authors of the invention are: Dr. Marta Fiołka from Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin and Prof. Jolanta Rzymowska and Dr. Przemysław Kołodziej from the Medical University of Lublin.

author: Renata Chrzanowska

editor: Agnieszka Tkacz

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