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article imageMantis shrimps can see cancer

By Tim Sandle     Sep 28, 2014 in Science
Adelaide - Australian scientists have discovered that the mantis shrimp has an amazing ability: the shrimps can detect a variety of cancers inside the human body. The researchers hope to harness this to make a special camera.
The mantis shrimp (Neogonodactylus oerstedii) has one of the most elaborate visual systems ever discovered. The crustacean’s 16 eyes contain cells called ommatidia, and these photoreceptors are tuned to ultraviolet frequencies. In its natural habitat, the shrimp uses this ability to more effectively pick out prey hiding in the complex coral reef habitats.
New research from the University of Queensland indicates that the shrimps can "see" cancer. The shrimp's eye is uniquely tuned to detect polarized light. This form of light reflects differently off different types of tissue, enabling cancerous or healthy tissue to be distinguished.
Discussing the discovery further, Justin Marshall from the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland, said in a research note: "Humans can’t see this, but a mantis shrimp could walk up to it and hit it. We see color with hues and shades, and objects that contrast – a red apple in a green tree for example – but our research is revealing a number of animals that use polarized light to detect and discriminate between objects."
The discovery is not only of academic interest. The University has created a camera, drawing on nanotechnology, that can replicate this ability and the new device is undergoing trials. If successful, it could be possible to scan a person and "see" if there is cancerous tissue.
The research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the IEEE, in a paper headed "Bioinspired Polarization Imaging Sensors: From Circuits and Optics to Signal Processing Algorithms and Biomedical Applications."
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