She appears to be able to hear things, but struggles to triangulate the sounds, so she has no clue where the noise is coming from. She invariable launches her “ATTACK” in the wrong direction. Her world view is clearly dominated by smell. She explores the world by running her nose along the ground and can locate the tiniest delectable morsel, based on its bouquet from across the room.
Maybe she could pay her way by offering diagnostic services ?
Sniffer dogs can reliably detect lung cancer
Lung cancer is a big killer. The smoking habit creates the risk, but the lack of symptoms early on in the disease, means that this cancer is typically detected late. Often too late to really stop it in it’s tracks.
Early detection still represents a challenge.
Sniffing the cancer out
One approach has been to “sniff” out “tell tale cancer odours”.
Cancer cells have are metabolically speaking supercharged , so they give off characteristic smells, in the form of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) despite their differences. Expensive lab equipment can pick up these compounds when “conditions” are perfect i.e. there are absolutely no interfering smells. This means that the patient can’t eat anything or smoke prior to the sample being taken for a lab based “odour” test.
Dogs do it “interfering smells and all”
This is where the canine nose is tops.
German researchers from Schillerhoehe Hospital trained a canine sniffing team to identify cancer “pongs”.
They then rounded up 220 human volunteers – some of the volunteers had a diagnosis of cancer, others a diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) while others were healthy.
The dog team’s stats were
- 71 positives out of 100
- 372 negatives out of 400
The dog noses were able to pick up the cancer even in the prescence of tobacco smoke, food odours and drugs. They also could distinguish the lung cancer from other lung troubles.
The stats aren’t perfect, but they are way better than current state of the art technology.
Health screening in the future ?
Maybe in the future, public health initiatives in malls will not only have the blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar level check, but will include a once over sniff by
the “Cancer detection dog squad”.Canine scent detection in the diagnosis of lung cancer: Revisiting a puzzling phenomenon. European Respiratory Journal (2011) erj00517-2011 Rainer Ehmann, Enole Boedeker, Uwe Friedrich, Jutta Sagert, Jürgen Dippon, Godehard Friedel, Thorsten Walles.
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