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The curious collection of a slightly mad scientist

Honey bees can be trained to detect cancer “in ten minutes”

Dezeen_Susana_Soares_Bees_Design_2Portuguese designer Susana Soares has developed a device for detecting cancer and other serious diseases using trained bees ( + slideshow).

The bees are placed in a glass chamber into which the patient exhales; the bees fly into a smaller secondary chamber if they detect cancer.

“Trained bees only rush into the smaller chamber if they can detect the odour on the patient’s breath that they have been trained to target,” explained Soares, who presented her Bee’s project at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven last month.

Scientists have found that honey bees – Apis mellifera – have an extraordinary sense of smell that is more acute than that of a sniffer dog and can detect airborne molecules in the parts-per-trillion range.

Bees can be trained to detect specific chemical odours, including the biomarkers associated with diseases such as tuberculosis, lung, skin and pancreatic cancer.

Bees have also been trained to detect explosives and a company called Insectinel is training “sniffer bees” to work in counter-terrorist operations.

“The bees can be trained within 10 minutes,” explains Soares. “Training simply consists of exposing the bees to a specific odour and then feeding them with a solution of water and sugar, therefore they associate that odour with a food reward.”

Once trained, the bees will remember the odour for their entire lives, provided they are always rewarded with sugar. Bees live for six weeks on average.

“There’s plenty of interest in the project especially from charities and further applications as a cost effective early detection of illness, specifically in developing countries,” Soares said.

Bee’s explores how we might co-habit with natural biological systems and use their potential to increase our perceptive abilities.

The objects facilitate bees’ odour detection abilities in human breath. Bees can be trained within 10 minutes using Pavlov’s reflex to target a wide range of natural and man-made chemicals and odours, including the biomarkers associated with certain diseases.

The aim of the project is to develop upon current technological research by using design to translate the outcome into systems and objects that people can understand and use, engendering significant adjustments in their lives and mind set. …

How it works

The glass objects have two enclosures: a smaller chamber that serves as the diagnosis space and a bigger chamber where previously trained bees are kept for the short period of time necessary for them to detect general health. People exhale into the smaller chamber and the bees rush into it if they detect on the breath the odour that they where trained to target.

What can bees detect?

Scientific research demonstrated that bees can diagnose accurately at an early stage a vast variety of diseases, such as: tuberculosis, lung and skin cancer, and diabetes. …

via Honey bees can be trained to detect cancer “in ten minutes” | design.

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This entry was posted on November 21, 2013 by in Biology, Health, Strange.
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