formaldehyde, which has such a strong odor. So, the lab protocol for cancer detection would have to be different. It could be kind of tricky.”
And while ants are cheaper than stains and dyes and formaldehyde, you’d have to hire someone to train the ants. In other words, there’d still be a human factor and related costs.
“It would take much more research to figure out cost, and how applicable and reproducible it would be,” Komorowski says.
And then there’s the question of whether the ants would do their cancer-detecting work in the lab only, or if direct patient interaction might lead to a diagnosis more quickly.
“The human body emits many other odors, so the question is whether the ants would be able to ignore all the other scents and focus only on the target scent,” says Moreau.
“But these results are promising,” she notes. “I guess the question is whether a patient would be willing to have trained ants crawl all over their body looking for potential cancer cells.”