Scientists have discovered that honey bees and wasps have an excellent sense of smell which is better than a sniffer dog and can be trained to perform a variety of tasks. Bees in particular can detect airborne molecules in the parts-per-trillion range.
Trained bees and wasps can detect substances such as explosive materials, illegal drugs, as well as some human and plant diseases.
Bees have been shown to not only detect and respond to more than 60 different odors including methamphetamine, uranium, and tuberculosis but also detect the early signs of fungal disease, lung and skin cancers, diabetes, and to confirm pregnancy.
Portuguese designer Susana Soares has developed a device for detecting cancer and other serious diseases using trained bees.
Soares explained that the bees can be trained within 10 minutes, using Pavlov’s reflex to target a wide range of natural and man-made chemicals and odors, including the biomarkers associated with certain diseases.
The training simply consists of exposing the bees to a specific odor and then feeding them with a solution of water and sugar, therefore they associate that odor with a food reward.
The aim of Susana’s 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.
So how does this device work.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 odor that they were trained to target.
By utilizing these innovative devices many lives can be saved by using bees to detect cancer and other life-threatening diseases early.
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