A device that consists of two glass chambers, one of which would have bees in it, might end up helping detect cancer and other serious diseases, thanks to bees’ strong sense of smell.
The device was created by Portuguese designer Susana Soares and presented in October at Dutch Design Week. The device’s two glass chambers include a small empty one that is surrounded by a larger container that has bees in it.
Bees reportedly can be trained to recognize chemical smells — including the biomarkers that indicate cancer and other serious disease, such as tuberculosis — and once they've learned the scent, they never forget it.
A patient would breathe into the smaller chamber, and if the bees fly into it once they can smell the patient's breath, it means the patient is most likely ill.
"Trained bees only rush into the smaller chamber if they can detect the odor on the patient's breath that they have been trained to target," Soares told Dezeen Magazine.
"The bees can be trained within 10 minutes," Soares noted. "Training simply consists of exposing the bees to a specific odor and then feeding them with a solution of water and sugar, therefore they associate that odor with a food reward."
After they are trained, the bees will remember the odor for their entire lives, as long as they are always rewarded with sugar.
"There's plenty of interest in the project especially from charities and further applications as a cost effective early detection of illness, specifically in developing countries," Soares noted.