Cancer Researches: Fruit flies smell cancer cells

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Cancer research: fruit flies can smell cancer cells

Scientists from the Universities of Constance and Rome have found that fruit flies can detect cancer cells in humans with their sense of smell. The knowledge gained could help improve cancer diagnosis in the future.

Flies can distinguish between healthy and diseased cells A research group led by neurobiologist and zoologist Prof. Dr. In an international cooperation project, Giovanni Galizia was able to demonstrate for the first time that fruit flies can distinguish cancer cells from healthy cells via their sense of smell. The scientists from the University of Konstanz and the University of La Sapienza in Rome published their results in the international science magazine "Scientific Report" published by Nature-Verlag. ("") According to this, fruit flies of the genus Drosophila can not only distinguish between healthy and diseased cells through their fragrance receptors, but also classify which group of cancer the ulcer belongs to.

Genetically modified fruit flies "The new and spectacular thing about this result is the combination of an objective, specific and quantifiable laboratory result with the extremely high sensitivity of a natural being that cannot be achieved by artificial noses or gas chromatography," explained Giovanni Galizia. For the series of experiments, the antennas of the flies were used, to whose receptor neurons bind individual scent molecules and thus activate the neurons. Five different breast cancer cell lines were evaluated in comparison to healthy cells, which led to clearly different patterns in the neuron activity of the flies. In an imaging process developed by the researchers, the different scent molecules generate different patterns of activated neurons. The scientists used genetically modified animals for which the corresponding activity fluoresces under the microscope.

Basic work for cancer diagnosis Dr. Alja Lüdke, researcher and scientist at the University of Konstanz, said: "Because not only sick and healthy cells can be differentiated, but also subgroups within the cancer cells were recognizable, different breast cancer cell types seem to be differentiable via the Drosophila antenna." For the neurobiologist Galizia, the knowledge gained represents a crucial basis for cancer diagnosis: "The high sensitivity of the natural fragrance receptors combined with the speed with which we obtain these test results could make it possible to perform a very inexpensive, fast and highly efficient pre-screening that cancer cells may be able to detect long before we can identify them in previous imaging tests. ”

Dogs also sniff out cancer It has long been known that other animals can also perceive cancer by the smell. Studies have already shown that dogs can sniff out various types of cancer, such as skin, breast and colon cancer, using the patient's breath, urine or stool. In recent years, studies from Germany and Austria have also shown that the four-legged friends can also recognize lung cancer due to their pronounced sense of smell. (ad)

Image: Susanne Schmich /

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