Cancer: Ants have been trained to smell tumour chemicals in the urine of diseased mice

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The Formica fusca ant species was trained to move towards urine samples produced by mice with human breast tumours


1 June 2022

A Formica fusca ant

A Formica fusca ant

Tomas Vacek/Shutterstock

Ants could detect human breast tumours, according to a small study in mice. The insects may one day provide an easier and cheaper way to non-invasively identify tumours compared with sniffer dogs.

Cancer cells are known to produce molecules called volatile organic compounds, which give them specific odours. As a result, some dogs can use their highly sensitive noses to sniff out cancer, but training them can be expensive and time-consuming.

Now, researchers have shown that a species of ant (Formica fusca) can be trained …

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