Scientists create a plague of cancer-sniffing cyber-locusts

Originally published at: Scientists create a plague of cancer-sniffing cyber-locusts | Boing Boing


I lived in Kazakhstan when they experienced a plague of locusts. I thought the reason locusts were feared biblically was because they eat everything, leaving starvation in their wake.

That’s only the beginning. Once they strip bare the vegetation, they turn to eating everything else. Themselves. Cattle. YOU. Locust bites hurt!

Farmers there were sweeping locusts off their livestock and feeding live locusts to their cattle, which ate them because there was nothing else to eat.

Locusts are bad news.

So, yes, let’s teach them to identify a human quality. I’m sure nothing could possibly go wrong. :expressionless:


I feel like there must be a less creepy way to detect the presence of cancerous cell farts


Yup, there is.


This is just one small step towards training ants to sort tiny screws in space.



Let me be the first to call bullshit on cancer-sniffing locusts. Its a fun project, but the result is pretty trivial. The cell cultures produce distinct volatiles, olfactory neurons respond reliably to the volatiles. So there is a discriminable difference in responses. This would never translate into a diagnostic tool to test whether a person has cancer, though.

That sounds like a harrowing experience. When I walk into the colony room at work I often think how terrifying a swarm of them would be.
The animals in this study aren’t really locusts - Schistocerca americana don’t swarm. They are a close relative of the desert locust, and often called locusts in neurobiology because in the lab they are very similar. No doomsday plague scenarios with this species to worry about.


So a caged locust would be the oncological equivalent of a canary in a coal mine. Sounds legit.

If elected, I will ensure that citizens have unfettered access to qualified and fully trained locust swarms. And a Himalayan Salt Lamp in every household.


VOC sensing for cancer detection is a very right now kind of thing. The first one that came up when I searched is VOC Diagnostics, but there’s a bunch of them out there, all more or less in the early stages of getting something to market.

The group I work with is doing some materials development for a different company and at my previous job I was involved with a startup in the same space that flamed out before fielding anything.

I’m skeptical that any of these will succeed long term, but I’m on the hardware side and can’t speak to the science which could be brilliant and still not go anywhere; lots of brilliant ideas die on the vine for want of funds or marketplace resistance.


I mean, it’s bad enough being struck down with cancer, but to be set upon by locusts as well!?

Why not cancer sniffing puppies or kittens or tiny pandas?

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