Scientists Hacked Lobster Brains So They Can Diagnose Cancer Patients


Scientists at the University of Michigan they hacked the brains of lobsters for a purpose that can revolutionize medicine: diagnose cancer patients.

The researchers revealed that these insects have the ability to differentiate between cancerous and healthy cells with their sense of smell, which also allows them to distinguish between different cell lines, according to the report on the Gizmodo website.

Debajit Saha, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the aforementioned university, explained how lobsters sniff out cancer: “Theoretically, you could breathe into a device, and you could detect and differentiate multiple types of cancer and even what stage the disease is at. However, such a device is not yet close to being used in a clinical setting.”

Cancer cells create different compounds as they function and grow, differently from healthy cells. If these chemicals get into a patient’s lungs or airways, then the compounds can be detected in the exhaled breath.

What did the “hack” consist of?

The focus of this study was to hack the insect’s brain for use in disease diagnosis. detection of locusts is measured by changes in your brain activity detected by electrodes and the results are reliable, sensitive and fast.

Referential image of a lobster.

The locust is an insect regularly used by science in olfaction research. Using electrodes attached to the locusts’ brains, the team was able to measure the insects’ response to gas samples from different cells and establish signal profiles that represented the chemicals they were smelling.

In this regard, microbiologist Christopher Contag of the University of Michigan stated: “Early detection of cancer is very important, and we must use every tool possible to get there, whether designed or provided by millions of years of natural selection. If we are successful, cancer will be a treatable disease.”

In their work, and after confirming that the cells of the mouth cancers looked different from normal cells under a microscope, they were able to certify that the cells smelled differently from lobsters. And although the study was limited to one type of cancer, the researchers are confident that other types of this disease could be detected in the same way.

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