Can we use worms to treat disease?

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Almost everyone knows someone who sufferers from asthma, allergies or rheumatoid arthritis, which are life-limiting diseases of the immune system. Our research collaborator William Harnett at the University of Strathclyde has discovered a protein called ES-62 that might bring relief to patients - but there’s a problem. ES-62 is produced in a parasitic worm that lives in ticks which then transmit it to rodents to complete its life cycle. This makes production of the tiniest amounts of therapeutic protein slow, expenses and difficult, and involves the use of laboratory rodents. We have evidence that we can make ES-62 in another nematode worm called C. elegans that can be cultured easily and is used in labs all over the world. Our initial results are promising but we need funding from Thinkable to produce the evidence that will convince government and industry to fund our project.

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I am a postgraduate research student at Durham University. I started working with C. elegans worms 3 years ago, in my final year of my undergraduate degree. I was lucky enough to have a very ambit...