How many of us would take a look at fruit flies and figure out that they are nothing but pests? Well, scientists have decided to find a better use for fruit flies, using them to detect cancer instead. Talk about one man’s meat being another man’s poison! How exactly does a fruit fly detect cancer in a person? Well, it will sit on a podium as shown in the middle of the picture above, as scents are emitted from the tube on the left and sent in the direction of the fly itself. Using its sense of smell, these fruit flies are able to tell the difference between cancerous cells and healthy ones. The fruit flies used are no ordinary ones though, they have been genetically modified so that their antennae will glow whenever they pick up a cancerous odor. All of the appearance of these insects are monitored through a microscope.
Apart from fruit flies, other members of the animal kingdom including dogs and bees have shown that they are able to detect cancerous cells. Project leader Giovanni Galizia shared, “What really is new and spectacular about this result is the combination of objective, specific and quantifiable laboratory results and the extremely high sensitivity of a living being that cannot be matched by electronic noses or gas chromatography. The high sensitivity of the natural olfactory receptors, paired with the quickness with which we can generate these test results, might lead to the development of a cheap, fast and highly-efficient pre-screening that can detect cancer cells well before we can discover them with the present diagnostic imaging techniques.”
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