Bees can detect lung cancer with an 88% success rate

In 2023, lung cancer affected 52,777 people in France, with a higher proportion in men (33,438 cases) than in women (19,339 cases), according to the National Cancer Institute. Smoking is, of course, the main risk factor for developing lung cancer, but we can also cite exposure to certain chemicals and passive smoking. Today, lung cancer detected early has a cure rate of approximately 80%. A recent and astonishing scientific study could help increase this healing rate by detecting the presence of cancer very early. And, this luck would come from the bees. They would have the power to “smell” lung cancer in human breathing. Discovery.

The ability to sense the presence of lung cancer

This study comes from a team of researchers from Michigan State University (MSU), and was published on the ScienceDirect website. According to the first results, the bees would therefore have the ability to sense the presence of lung cancer. Animals have much more developed senses than humans; we know, for example, that certain assistance dogs can detect an epileptic seizure before it occurs. The bee also has a very fine olfactory sense which allows it to navigate and feed. According to scientists, the bee is capable of distinguishing certain chemical components in human breathing that indicate lung cancer.

Lung cancer is one of the most common, early detection increases the chances of cure. Non-contractual illustrative photo. Credit: Shutterstock

A neural response to chemical compounds

This discovery, if it were to be transposed into a detection protocol, would, of course, be essential in the fight against cancer. This research was carried out under the leadership of Debajit Saha, assistant professor of medical engineering. First, they created a chemical mixture that mimicked the composition of the breath of lung cancer patients. Among the chemical substances, we can cite trichlorethylene, a chemical compound used in industries. To bring the bees into the “game”, they then designed a harness to keep the bees alive, during the detection and observation phase for the researchers. The bees’ antennae, exposed to the chemical mixture, caused noticeable changes that the researchers interpret as a neuronal response to the chemical compounds. “ By studying population neuronal responses evoked by lung cancer biomarkers from the bee antennal lobe, we successfully classified individual human lung cancer biomarkers (88% success rate) », Explain the researchers in their study.

What are the researchers’ hypotheses?

Bees, exposed to chemical compounds from human respiration, from people without cancer, do not have the same attitude. This therefore encourages researchers to hypothesize that bees modify their behavior in the presence of chemical compounds linked to lung cancer. “ Bees can differentiate with remarkable acuity between minute changes in the chemical concentrations of the breathing mixture,” explains the professor Saha. Researchers, after analyzing neuronal data from exposed and non-exposed bees, are confident that they are capable of detecting lung cancer.

According to scientists, bees exposed to the breathing of a sick patient would behave differently.According to scientists, bees exposed to the breathing of a sick patient would behave differently.
According to scientists, bees exposed to the breathing of a sick patient would behave differently. Non-contractual illustrative photo. Credit: Shutterstock

If this hypothesis turns out to be true, then cancer research could take a giant step forward, and many patients could be treated much sooner! One more reason to protect bees, whose population has fallen by 25% in 20 years, right? More information: Did this article interest you? Do you think bees could play an important role in detecting lung cancer? We would love to read your thoughts or hear about your experience with this. And, if you notice an error in this article, do not hesitate to let us know. You can click here to post a comment.

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