Scientists have discovered that ants can smell cancer in urine.
Many types of cancer have been found to change the smell of urine, but for the first time, scientists have discovered the ability to detect scent in ants.
In their findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, they said it could be used as a cost-effective way to identify these insects. Cancer in patients.
Study author Professor Patrizia d’Ettore of the Sorbonne Paris Nord University said: “Ants can be used as biodetectors to discriminate healthy individuals from those with tumours.
“They are easy to train, learn quickly, are very efficient and are not expensive to keep.”
The research builds on previous research by Professor D’Ettore and his colleagues where they showed that ants were able to “sniff out” human cancer cells grown in the laboratory.
For the current study, the researchers exposed 70 ants — a genus known as Formica fusca — to urine samples from mice with and without tumors.
After three trials, the ants were able to tell the difference between the odor of the urine of healthy mice and mice with tumors.
This is because ants have a very sensitive olfactory system, the researchers said.
Professor D’Ettore told PA: “We trained them with associative learning to associate a given odor – cancer – with a reward and, after very few trials, they learned the association.
“We demonstrated that ants can distinguish the urine of healthy mice from the urine of tumor-bearing mice.
“This is more similar to a real-life situation using cultured cancer cells.
“We were surprised at how efficient and reliable the ants are.”
As part of the next steps, the researchers want to see if ants can do the same for human urine.
Previous research has shown that dogs can detect cancer by sniffing urine after being trained to do so.
There are also electronic devices that can detect certain types of cancer – such as bladder, breast or prostate – from urine samples.
The human nose, however, cannot smell cancer in urine.
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