The brain and antennae of a locust can be used to detect oral cancer, according to a team of researchers from Michigan State University. Although their work hasn’t yet undergone peer review, they have uploaded a paper outlining it on the
Previous studies have demonstrated that some animals, including dogs, are able to detect the chemical changes that occur when people sweat or exhale. For instance, dogs were tested to see if they could identify COVID-19 in human beings.
However, it takes a lot of time and effort to raise, train, and maintain canines for such activity. In this new endeavor, the researchers questioned if such work might be accomplished more effectively utilizing a different creature—the locust, which is known to have an acute sense of smell.
Grasshoppers of the locust kind are often found in tropical regions. They have huge antennae they utilize to detect chemical changes in the air around them in addition to their lengthy bodies and leaping legs.
In this new endeavor, the researchers made use of such capacity. In order to capture brain wave patterns while the bugs were exposed to fumes coming off cancer specimens cultured in a jar, they surgically placed probes into the brains of several live specimens.
They were selectively exposed to gases released by three different forms of oral cancer that were developing in human tissue. The locusts’ brain waves were captured while the chemicals were applied to their antennae.
After extensive testing, the scientists discovered that they could identify various brain wave patterns as the locusts were exposed to various cancers and a control group of mouth cells that weren’t malignant. According to the researchers, this is the first time a living insect brain has been used to identify malignancy.
The researchers also point out that to obtain signals that are distinct enough to be used as a cancer detection system, their approach needs utilizing six to ten locusts. They intend to carry on with their research in the hopes of identifying just one locust brain. They claim that by doing this, their technology may be made portable.