Current Topics in Zoology and Botany
Olfactory detection of human cancer by ants
Lecture by Dr. Baptiste Piqueret, Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Ökologie, Jena.
Cancers are the second most common death cause in Humans, with up to 10 million deaths in 2020. The sooner is it diagnosed, the better the survival is for patients. Currently, the classical methods of diagnostics are either invasive (e.g. mammography) or costly (e.g. RMI), but alternative methods, based on the learning of characteristics odours of cancers have a high potential, as they are non-invasive, rapid and inexpensive. In this context, we investigated the possibility of using the discriminative olfactory abilities of an ant species, Formica fusca, to detect cancers. We first characterized the olfactory associative learning in this species and demonstrated that these ants were able to learn fast, and that the related memory was robust. Then, by using human cancer cell lines, we observed that ants were able to differentiate healthy cells from cancerous ones, as to differentiate a cancer cell line from another. Finally, we used urine from mice grafted with human tumours as a source of odours for the learning, and ants were able to differentiate the urine of healthy mice from tumour-bearing mice. The utilization of chemistry analytic tools (GC-MS and SPME) confirmed these results and helps us establish a list of potential cancer biomarkers. Compared to the canine olfaction, the gold standard in this domain, ants are faster, cheaper, and efficient. Improvement can be proposed, but this first study highlighted the promise of using ants for early human cancer detection.
Admission is free. All interested participants are welcome.
Biologie und Vorklinische Medizin
LS Zoologie / Evolutionsbiologie
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