The Oriental liver fluke causes cancer -- but new research finds that it could have a big medical benefit
A vicious little parasitic worm known as the Oriental liver fluke from Australia is known for causing cancer — but scientists think that it may actually be able to help people suffering from diabetes in a groundbreaking new study.
Scientists are hopeful that this parasite, which causes infections in people who eat raw fish and can cause liver cancer, could actually be used to heal wounds, as well as develop a vaccine against the cancer caused by the worm, according to a UPI report.
The growth factor in the worm shows that it could be used to heal diabetic ulcers, a very difficult wound to treat. With diabetes a growing worldwide problem, this could be a significant finding, according to Dr. Michael Smouth, a research at James Cook University, who was quoted in the report.
“There are increasing numbers of inflammatory diseases such as diabetes and associated non-healing wounds. A powerful wound healing agent designed by millennia of host-parasite co-evolution may accelerate the impaired healing processes that plague diabetic and elderly patients,” he said in a press release.
In tests, the growth factor of the Oriental liver fluke successful increased the healing rate of wounds in the skin of mice. The parasite must be kept under tight control, because while it does seem to heal wounds at first, if left in the body too long it goes on to cause liver cancer. It can lives inside a body for many years, even decades.
Scientists will be conducting further research to see how this growth factor could be applied to humans to speed healing, as well develop a vaccine for the liver cancer aspect. Using the worm in an actual clinical situation is years away, but scientists are hopeful that this is a big medical breakthrough in the area of diabetes research.
A news release was published on the findings, which can be found here.