Decoded the sense of smell of locusts, unmasks cancer – Medicine

(ANSA) – ROME, AUGUST 10 – The power of locusts hidden in their sense of smell has been decoded: these insects are able to unmask cancer cells and also distinguish between different types. A power that can be exploited for the sensors of the future, with the aim of identifying tumors already in the initial stages and therefore enormously increasing the chances of survival of patients. This was stated by a new study published on the online platform BioRxiv, which welcomes articles pending review by the scientific community, and led by the State University of Michigan, United States.
Locusts, whose great olfactory abilities are already known, are able to identify tumor cells thanks to the volatile organic compounds (Voc) present in the air emitted during respiration, which are altered by the presence of cancer that interferes with the metabolic processes of the single cells. Using electrodes attached to the locust brains, researchers led by Alexander Farnum were able to measure the insect’s response to gas samples from different cells, thus fine-tuning profiles corresponding to the different chemicals identified by these insects. Detection proved to be reliable, sensitive and very fast, as it occurs within milliseconds.
“Early cancer detection is critical and we should use every possible tool to get there, whether it’s designed in the lab or given us by millions of years of natural selection,” comments Christopher Contag, one of the study’s authors. “If we are successful – adds Contag – cancer will be a treatable disease”. The ultimate goal of the research group is to exploit the ability of locusts to create a device capable of verifying the presence of a tumor and its stage simply by breathing. (HANDLE).