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They discover a “superpower” in bees that can be used to detect lung cancer.

They discover a “superpower” in bees that can be used to detect lung cancer.

Honey bees have a highly sensitive olfactory system that helps them find food, reproduce, care for offspring, and defend themselves.
Daniel April

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Not only are bees essential for pollination and honey production, they also have a highly developed olfactory system that allows them to detect odors with incredible accuracy, much more distinct than those of humans. This ability has recently been tested in medicine to treat human diseases such as: B- Lung cancer, which is detected quickly and effectively.

That's what researchers at Michigan State University found: They discovered that bees can detect biomarkers, or chemical concentrations, linked to lung cancer in human breath. In addition, they showed that bees could distinguish between different types of lung cancer cells simply by “smell” the cell cultures.

To enable bees to perform these tasks, a 3D-printed harness has been developed. Credit: Michigan State University Laboratory

The research results were published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.According to experts, it could serve as a model for developing new tests for timely diagnosis of lung cancer.

How does lung cancer prevention work?

This type of cancer is one of the most deadly forms of the disease, because it is often diagnosed only in advanced stages. However, the human body releases some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when it is sick, including lung cancer. These VOCs are released into the air that patients breathe, and although they are almost undetectable to humans, bees can easily detect them.

The process by which bees are trained to detect lung cancer is surprisingly simple: the bees are exposed to breath samples containing volatile organic compounds that are characteristic of cancer.

this Classical conditioning allows bees to learn to associate the smell of crab with a reward, and after a short period of training, they can accurately identify crabs...

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Bee brain
The bee's brain is equipped with an attached sensor that detects the stimuli it receives when it comes into contact with an odor. Credit: Michigan State University Laboratory

Compared to traditional methods such as CT scanning and biopsy, the use of bees is significantly more cost-effective. There is no need for expensive equipment or highly specialized personnel, making it ideal for use in areas with fewer resources.

How effective is a bee's work?

Research in many countries has proven the effectiveness of this method. A study in the Netherlands found that bees can detect lung cancer with more than 90% accuracy.These findings have generated significant interest in the medical community and suggest that bees could become a standard tool for early cancer detection.

One The biggest challenge is ensuring the stability and continuous availability of trained bees. Bees have a short lifespan and require special care to maintain their health and effectiveness in detecting disease.

Future applications and complementary technologies

Another group of researchers from the same university, but from the Institute of Health Sciences and Quantum Engineering at WWU, decided to test the mechanism and take the project to another level: They used different types of human lung cancer cell cultures in sealed, hermetically sealed bottles, and developed a sensor based on the bee's brain to test the smell of lung cancer cells.

Researchers have successfully demonstrated that this bee brain-based sensor can distinguish between small cell lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer cells, and healthy cells.

Clearly, the potential of bees is not limited to lung cancer. Future research could investigate its ability to detect other types of cancer and metabolic diseases, expanding the applications of this innovative method.

Bee exposed to a scent sample
A bee exposed to a scent sample containing cancer cells. Credit: Michigan State University Laboratory

Combining bees' sense of smell with advanced technologies such as electronic sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) could further improve the accuracy of medical diagnosis and reduce false positives. Electronic sensors that mimic the olfactory sensitivity of bees can be integrated into wearable medical devices that provide real-time diagnosis and facilitate access to early diagnosis in different geographic areas.

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The ability of bees to instantly detect lung cancer is a major advance in medicine and has the potential to save countless lives. As research advances and challenges are overcome, this method could become a standard tool in medical diagnosis.