Livin' on the MDedge

Is cancer testing going to the dogs? Nope, ants


The oncologist’s new best friend

We know that dogs have very sensitive noses. They can track criminals and missing persons and sniff out drugs and bombs. They can even detect cancer cells … after months of training.

And then there are ants.

An ant on a rock Erik Karits/Pixabay

Cancer cells produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be sniffed out by dogs and other animals with sufficiently sophisticated olfactory senses. A group of French investigators decided to find out if Formica fusca is such an animal.

First, they placed breast cancer cells and healthy cells in a petri dish. The sample of cancer cells, however, included a sugary treat. “Over successive trials, the ants got quicker and quicker at finding the treat, indicating that they had learned to recognize the VOCs produced by the cancerous cells, using these as a beacon to guide their way to the sugary delight,” according to IFL Science.

When the researchers removed the treat, the ants still went straight for the cancer cells. Then they removed the healthy cells and substituted another type of breast cancer cell, with just one type getting the treat. They went for the cancer cells with the treat, “indicating that they were capable of distinguishing between the different cancer types based on the unique pattern of VOCs emitted by each one,” IFL Science explained.

It’s just another chapter in the eternal struggle between dogs and ants. Dogs need months of training to learn to detect cancer cells; ants can do it in 30 minutes. Over the course of a dog’s training, Fido eats more food than 10,000 ants combined. (Okay, we’re guessing here, but it’s got to be a pretty big number, right?)

Then there’s the warm and fuzzy factor. Just look at that picture. Who wouldn’t want a cutie like that curling up in the bed next to you?

Console War II: Battle of the Twitter users

Video games can be a lot of fun, provided you’re not playing something like Rock Simulator. Or Surgeon Simulator. Or Surgeon Simulator 2. Yes, those are all real games. But calling yourself a video gamer invites a certain negative connotation, and nowhere can that be better exemplified than the increasingly ridiculous console war.

A surgeon at work Comstock/Thinkstock

For those who don’t know their video game history, back in the early 90s Nintendo and Sega were the main video game console makers. Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic, and everyone had an opinion on which was best. With Sega now but a shell of its former self and Nintendo viewed as too “casual” for the true gaming connoisseur, today’s battle pits Playstation against Xbox, and fans of both consoles spend their time trying to one-up each other in increasingly silly online arguments.

That brings us nicely to a Twitter user named “Shreeveera,” who is very vocal about his love of Playstation and hatred of the Xbox. Importantly, for LOTME purposes, Shreeveera identified himself as a doctor on his profile, and in the middle of an argument, Xbox enthusiasts called his credentials into question.

At this point, most people would recognize that there are very few noteworthy console-exclusive video games in today’s world and that any argument about consoles essentially comes down to which console design you like or which company you find less distasteful, and they would step away from the Twitter argument. Shreeveera is not most people, and he decided the next logical move was to post a video of himself and an anesthetized patient about to undergo a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

This move did prove that he was indeed a doctor, but the ethics of posting such a video with a patient in the room is a bit dubious at best. Since Shreeveera also listed the hospital he worked at, numerous Twitter users review bombed the hospital with one-star reviews. Shreeveera’s fate is unknown, but he did take down the video and removed “doctor by profession” from his profile. He also made a second video asking Twitter to stop trying to ruin his life. We’re sure that’ll go well. Twitter is known for being completely fair and reasonable.


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