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The smell of cancerous locusts in humans

The smell of cancerous locusts in humans

Imagine if you could blow into a machine and a split second later you would get an answer to whether you had cancer. You can even learn about the type of cancer and how advanced the disease is.

Such a device could save millions of lives around the world.

A group of researchers from Michigan State University are now hoping to develop that particular technology in the near future, and by all accounts they have a very good chance of succeeding in the project.

Researchers to develop a bionic nose

The research group on a somewhat unorthodox and ground-breaking research project has shown that grasshoppers can smell their way into cancer. They do this with the help of their long antennae, which act as olfactory organs.

Grasshoppers can not only detect the smell of a cancer cell, but also can distinguish between different types of cancer.

The researchers’ goal is to “hack” the grasshopper’s brain to copy its selective ability to register and identify different cancer scents.

It should make it possible to develop a bionic nose and use it to diagnose cancer.

Own gases gossip about cancer

In a peer-reviewed article published in Scientific site BioRxiv American researchers explain how locusts pick up olfactory gases.

These gases are called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are found in people’s exhaled air, where they change character when cancer affects metabolic processes in the body’s cells.

In other words, the different types of cancer must lead to changes in VOCs, which the grasshoppers can detect.

Using electrodes in the locusts’ brains, researchers can measure the insects’ response to types of VOCs from different cells, and they can also create signal profiles for each individual gas the locusts come into contact with.

Try the aroma and treatment

The researchers tested the grasshopper’s sense of smell by placing a scent near the olfactory antennae of hungry grasshoppers. Then the researchers gave them a reward as a reward.

This caused the grasshopper’s upper jaw palps to open (mouth parts).

After repeating the process several times, the grasshopper’s upper jaw palps opened automatically when the insects recognized the scent – even if they weren’t rewarded with food.

The next step was to equip the grasshoppers with sensors that monitor their neural activity. In this way, the researchers could test the grasshoppers’ ability to recognize the same smells as before, but in high humidity, dry air or at alternating intervals.

Grasshopper tentacles were opened each time, but the neural activity changed depending on the test conditions.

Based on this reaction, the researchers were able to determine that the grasshopper’s sense of smell is affected by some simple on-and-off mechanism, which cannot be affected by anything other than the smell itself.

Significant improvement in the chance of survival

If this knowledge is used as a starting point for developing a bionic nose based on similar principles, it may be possible in the future to diagnose cancer at an early stage – which is critical to patient survival.

If the cancer is detected during the first stage, the patient has an 80-90 percent chance of survival.

On the other hand, if the cancer is only detected in stage IV, the chance of survival drops to between 10 and 20 percent.

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