New research published in Science Reports by Strauch et al., shows that fruit flies can tell the difference between cancerous and healthy cells. The researchers recorded calcium patterns indicative of neuronal activity that was stimulated in response to various odors emitted by healthy and cancerous cells. Because cells with cancer differ metabolically from healthy cells, they emit different volatile compounds that can be detected by olfactory receptor neurons on the antennae of fruit flies. When exposed to breast cancer cells or healthy cells, the flies exhibited different patterns in neural activity indicating the flies could distinguish between the cell types. According to the study authors, the ultimate goal is to develop “electronic nose” biological sensors that can detect cancer.
Strauch M, Ludke A, Munch D, Laudes T, Galizia G, Martinelli E, Lavra L, Paolesse R, Ulivieri A, Catini A, Capuano R, Dr Natale C. More than apples and oranges – Detecting cancer with a fruit fly’s antenna. Science Reports. 4:3576 (doi:10.1038/srep03576)