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Cancer: Ants have been trained to smell tumour chemicals in the urine of diseased mice



The Formica fusca ant species was trained to move towards urine samples produced by mice with human breast tumours


1 June 2022


A Formica fusca ant

Tomas Vacek/Shutterstock

Ants could detect human breast tumours, according to a small study in mice. The insects may one day provide an easier and cheaper way to non-invasively identify tumours compared with sniffer dogs.


Cancer cells are known to produce molecules called volatile organic compounds, which give them specific odours. As a result, some dogs can use their highly sensitive noses to sniff out cancer, but training them can be expensive and time-consuming.

Now, researchers have shown that a species of ant (Formica fusca) can be trained …

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