Mantis Shrimp’s Eyes Inspire New Cancer-Detecting Camera
As if The Oatmeal didn’t give us enough reasons to love the mantis shrimp, Gizmag has the story on how researchers are developing cameras capable of detecting a variety of cancerous tissue by mimicking the extraordinarily complex eyes of these bizarre and amazing animals.
The mantis shrimp’s eye consists of two flattened hemispheres split into three regions, with the central band crowded with specialized receptors. This means that each eye possesses trinocular vision and depth perception. In addition, the mantis shrimp has 16 different photoreceptor pigments with 12 reserved for color sensitivity and the others for color filtering.
What this means is that the mantis shrimp has shellfish super vision. Where humans can see only three colors, the mantis shrimp can effectively see nine more colors than we can. Also, it can see both polarized light and multispectral images because each of the 10 thousand individual photocells, called ommatidia, found in eye eye has a pigment cell for color vision and an array of microvilli that perform as extremely efficient polarization filters.
“Humans can’t see [cancerous tissue surrounded by healthy tissue], but a mantis shrimp could walk up to it and hit it,” says Professor Justin Marshall, from the Queensland Brain Institute at UQ. “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 camera that we’ve developed in close collaboration with US and UK scientists shoots video and could provide immediate feedback on detecting cancer and monitoring the activity of exposed nerve cells. It converts the invisible messages into colors that our visual system is comfortable with.”
Marshall says that when perfected, the technology could even be adapted to smartphones for self-diagnosis, allowing patients to monitor their own condition, which would free up scarce medical resources. In addition, the ability of the mantis shrimp camera to see nerve cell activity could make it a new tool for neuroscience.
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