Cancer: Ants perceive it in humans
A new study has suggested that the ants, thanks to their super developed sense of smell, are able to find cancer cells in humans, stating they could be used as a future diagnosis. One species that could fulfill this role is the ant Fusca. Thanks to their over-developed sense of smell, these ants are able to differentiate cancerous cells from healthy ones in humans. However, more clinical studies are needed before they can be used as alternatives for a diagnosis.
According to the study, the ants they may be even better than dogs when it comes to finding diseased cells in humans. To conduct this research, the scientists analyzed as many as 36 ants in the laboratory that smelled cells in a protected environment.
Ants are capable of detecting cancer in humans
In a first phase, the ants were made to smell cancer cells of humans and this smell was associated with a reward of sugar solution. In the next phase the ants were subjected to a new smell and the previous one of cancerous cells. Once this test was found to be effective, the researchers exposed the ants to several cancer cells and found that they discriminated between healthy and cancer cells. After hard training the Fusca ant is able to recognize and detect volatile organic compounds in cancerous cells.
Before being used on a large scale, this method must be evaluated using human clinical studies. However this first study shows that ants have high potential, they are able to learn very quickly, at lower cost and are efficient. This isn’t the first time scientists have used animals’ sense of smell to locate cancerous cells. The sense of smell in dogs is used for medical diagnosis and for the detection of different types of cancer. Obviously training these animals takes some time ranging from several months to a year.
A great alternative for future diagnosis
Insects can easily be kept under controlled conditions; they are inexpensive, have a very well developed olfactory system, and hundreds of individuals can be conditioned with very little evidence. The team managed to combine the benefits of dog training and brain imaging, as well as limiting the disadvantages of both methods, by providing a protocol that is inexpensive, fast, easily executable, efficient, and does not require intensive academic training for trainers. So it seems that ants are a fast, inexpensive, and highly discriminating detection tool.
This approach could potentially be adapted to a number of other complex odor detection tasks, including the detection of narcotics, explosives, spoiled food or other diseases. including malaria, infections and diabetes. In regards to cancer detection, research will now aim to broaden the range of cancer-related odors that can be detected by ants by moving to the detection of odors emitted by the body.
Image by cp17 from Pixabay