Nowadays, it is common practice for animals to be consulted for the diagnosis of diseases in humans. Dogs in particular are considered specialists when it comes to detecting disease. Whether it’s corona, epilepsy, colon, prostate or skin cancer, our four-legged friends can smell it. However, the latest studies have shown that grasshoppers also have a similar gift.
Diagnosis in 250 milliseconds
Grasshoppers have an excellent sense of smell through their antennae. These are now used as sensors to detect cancer, especially oral cancer. Recent Michigan State University studies now show locusts can smell oral cancer. For this purpose, the electrodes are planted in the brain lobes of the insects. These receive signals from the antennas that can detect cancer. In the first phase of the research, three different types of oral cancer cells were grown, as well as healthy oral cells. These cells produce gases which are trapped. The next step was to direct these gases to the insect’s antennae, which reacted differently to the cell type. This allows you to determine within 250 milliseconds exactly which cells are sick and which are not. Only live locust brains are needed for this research, meaning the rest of the insect is actually dead. It takes 40 neurons to make a meaningful diagnosis: there are six to ten locusts. The aim of this research is that one day insects will be able to use breath tests to diagnose cancer of the oral cavity at an early stage. In addition, fewer neurons should be needed for this, which ideally should also be artificially produced.
Oral Cancer Diagnosis
Oral cancer is often caused by excessive consumption of cigarettes and alcohol. It is usually a malignant tumor that starts from the oral mucosa. This is throughout the oral cavity, but can also affect the tongue and / or floor of the mouth. In principle, specialist personnel should be consulted if the following symptoms persist for more than two weeks:
- small wounds in the mouth that do not heal
- whitish or red spots in the mouth
- sudden fluctuation of a tooth
- swelling in the oral cavity
- Problems with chewing and swallowing
- numbness the tongue, teeth or lip
Depending on the stage, the tumor can be treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or it can be surgically removed. The fact is, however, that early diagnosis is always good, which is possible, by the way, by diagnosing with locusts. In general, good oral hygiene, regular visits to the dentist, and avoiding cigarettes and alcohol reduce the risk of developing oral cancer.
A question of ethics
Of course, when researching living beings, the question of ethics must always be posed. Insects cannot communicate and there is conflicting information as to whether they are in pain. Some claim they have no sense of pain, others have found that locusts can feel pain too. The question is also to what extent the life of a living being can be sacrificed for human beings and who decides what is right or wrong. You need to ask yourself these questions again and again before you begin your research and create the utmost awareness that life, regardless of species, has value. Historically, animal research to preserve or extend human life has already produced enormous insights that all of humanity can take advantage of.