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Susana Soares’ Glass Device Uses Bees to Detect Disease

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Designer Susana Soares’ glass devices from her project “Bee’s” aren’t only visually interesting, they serve as accurate biosensing devices that work to detect early stages of a variety of diseases including tuberculosis, diabetes, and some cancers. Bees are trained using Pavlov’s reflex to detect certain chemical odors present on the breath of affected individuals. These bees are then used in the devices to determine if a user exhibits the chemical odors in their breath or secretes them via their apocrine glands.

The glass objects have two enclosures: a smaller chamber that serves as the diagnosis space and a bigger chamber where previously trained bees are kept for the short period of time necessary for them to detect general health. People exhale into the smaller chamber and the bees rush into it if they detect on the breath the odour that they where trained to target.

Bees can be easily trained using Pavlov’s reflex to target a wide range of natural and man-made chemicals odours including the biomarkers associated with certain diseases. The training consists in baffling the bees with a specific odour and feeding them with a solution of water and sugar, therefore they associate that odour with a food reward.

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