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MSU researchers discover honeybees can detect lung cancer

A honeybee in the custom 3-D printed harness
Saha Lab
A honeybee in the custom 3-D printed harness

Michigan State University researchers have discovered that honeybees can detect biomarkers or chemical concentrations associated with lung cancer in human breath.

The researchers have also shown that the honeybees can distinguish between different lung cancer cell types using only the ‘smell’ of the cell cultures. These findings could be used as a model for developing new tests to diagnose lung cancer early.

Leading the research is Debajit Saha, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering and MSU’s Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering. Michael Parnas is a doctoral candidate working in Saha’s lab, and Autumn McLane-Svoboda is a graduate student in the PhD program in biomedical engineering.

Saha, Parnas, and McLane-Svoboda discuss the research in this episode of MSU Today.

Conversation Highlights:

(0:27) – Debajit on his background and research interests and what attracted him to MSU.

The bee box
Saha Lab
The bee box

(1:21) – Michael introduces himself.

(1:55) – Autumn introduces herself.

(2:32) – Debajit, how did you originally get interested in insects and their olfactory senses?

(3:20) – How did you conclude that honeybees can smell lung cancer?

(4:15) – How Michael became interested in the project.

(4:55) – Autumn, when did you join the project?

(5:21) – What do you hope this research leads to?

(6:02) – What are the next steps in the project?

(7:07) – Might I one day have a honeybee test my breath in the doctor’s office?

(11:53) – “This is the first time we have used insect brain signals to detect diseases.”

(12:43) – What are the next steps in the research? Can insects detect PFAS, too?

Listen to “MSU Today with Russ White” on the radio and through Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.