Ants’ sense of smell is so strong, they can sniff out cancer

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An ant oncologist sees you.

ants We live in a world of smells. Some species are completely blind. Others rely heavily on smell, so those who lose sight of their pheromone trail march in circles until they die of exhaustion.

ants have such sophisticated sense of smellIn fact, researchers are now training it to detect the odor of human cancer cells.

A study published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences highlights the keen senses of ants and how one day we may find ourselves in animals with sharp noses (or, in the case of ants, sharp antennae). ) to rapidly detect tumors. And cheap. This is important because the sooner cancer is found, the more likely it is to recover.

“The results are very encouraging,” said Baptiste Piqueret, a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany who studies animal behavior and co-author of the paper. However, he added:

Extending a pair of thin sensory organs above their heads, insects detect and deploy chemical cues to find food, swarm prey, locate colony mates, and protect young. helps ants build complex societies of queens and worker ants that work in sync with scent, so much so that scientists call some colonies “superorganisms.”

For his study, Piqueret’s team transplanted fragments of human breast cancer tumors into mice and trained 35 ants to associate urine from tumor-bearing rodents with sugar. silky ants in petri dish (formkavska) significantly increased time spent near the tube in urine from ‘sick’ mice compared to urine from healthy mice.

Associate Professor Federica Pirone of the University of Milan, who was not involved in the ant study but conducted a similar study of dogs’ olfactory abilities, said, “This study was well thought out and conducted.

Piqueré has been fascinated by ants ever since he was a child, playing with them in his parents’ garden in the French countryside. “I’ve always loved ants,” he said.

Today’s methods of diagnosing cancer, which involve drawing blood, biopsies, and performing colonoscopies, are often expensive and invasive. Ethologists envision a world where doctors can one day use species with keen senses to find tumors quickly and cheaply.

Previous studies have shown that dogs can sniff out the presence of cancer from their body odor. Mice can be trained to distinguish between healthy and tumor-bearing siblings. Nematodes are attracted to certain organic compounds associated with cancer. Even Drosophila neurons fire in the presence of certain cancer cells.

But Piquele suggests that ants may outperform dogs and other animals that take longer to train.

During the coronavirus lockdown, he brought silky ants to his apartment on the outskirts of Paris to continue his experiments. He chose this breed because it has a good memory, is easy to train, and doesn’t bite (at least not hard).

Researchers have much more work to do before ants and other animals can make a real diagnosis. Scientists need to test for confounding factors such as diet and age, Piqueret said. are planning

“We have to wait for the next step to get real confirmation,” Pirone said.

If ants are ever used to screen for cancer, Piquele wants to make one thing clear.

“There is no direct contact between ants and patients,” he said. “That’s why it’s okay if you don’t like bugs.”

He once had to reassure someone who knew of his research that ants swarming picnics were not a sign of cancer.

“Ali was untrained,” he said. “They just want sugar.”

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