Ants can detect the scent of cancer in urine


According to a recent study, ants may be taught to recognize cancer in urine.

The results are encouraging, the researchers added, even if ant smelling is a long way from being utilized as a diagnostic tool in people.

Because ants don't have noses, they may detect possible mates or locate food by using olfactory sensors on their antennae. Nearly 30 silk ants (Formica fusca) were educated by researchers for the study, which was released on January 25 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

According to The Washington Post, researchers trained 35 flies to "associate urine from the tumor-bearing rats with sugar" after grafting slices of human breast cancer tumors onto mice in a laboratory setting (opens in new tab). According to the study, ants in a petri dish spent 20% more time adjacent to pee samples harboring malignant tumors than they did next to healthy urine.

The study's primary author, Baptiste Piqueret, an ethologist at France's Sorbonne Paris North University, told The Washington Post that "they just want to consume sweets."

Animals like dogs — and now ants — can be swiftly trained to identify these irregularities through their sense of smell because tumor cells emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that researchers may employ as cancer biomarkers. According to The Washington Post, scientists believe that ants "may have the edge over dogs and other animals that are [more] time-consuming to train."

This is crucial since cancer may be discovered and treated more quickly the earlier it is found. In their work, the researchers expressed optimism that cancer-sniffing ants may one day "serve as effective and economical cancer bio-detectors."

The outcomes are quite encouraging, according to Piqueret. He did note that "we are far from utilizing them as a daily tool to identify cancer," though, and issued a warning.