We already know that dogs have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, but did you know that the common fruit fly is able to sniff out diseased cells? To enhance this ability, German scientists have genetically modified a batch of house flies so that their antennae light up when they detect cancer.
Led by Dr. Giovanni Galizia, the team from the University of Konstanz in Germany also discovered that fruit flies were able to tell different types of cancerous cells apart – in one experiment they identified five individual lines of breast cancer cells. Apart from a distinct lack of cuteness when compared with dogs, fruit flies also have no way to communicate when they find a diseased cell – which is why the team opted for genetic modification.
Dr. Galizia is confident that the fruit fly will eventually become standard equipment in oncologist offices. While it’s unlikely that people will have to endure a swarm of fruit flies to check for cancer, the recent discoveries could provide valuable information for future screening techniques that are more effective.