How Scientists Used Shrimp to Help Detect Cancer

Mantis shrimp cancer detection

Mantis shrimp cancer detection

It seems like a strange concept, using the biological advantages that a sea shrimp has to create tools for detecting cancer. But that is just what researchers at the University of Queensland are looking into.

The mantis shrimp has a unique ability that allows it to detect polarized light. The ability allows it to better track food in water conditions with filtered light.

Through a series of tests, researchers discovered that polarized light reflects differently when it hits cancerous tissue. Since the eyes of the mantis shrimp have the ability to discern this type of light, the researchers took a second look at the shrimp’s compound eyes. They are using the design of a shrimps eye to develop a camera to spot cancerous cells from the light they reflect.

The main advantage of this form of cancer detection is that it is non-invasive. It could be of particular use for spotting skin cancer cells in their early stages.

Researchers are using the unique advantages of the shrimp that were develped over millions of years, to help humans in the 21st century!


York, T., Powell, S., Gao, S., Kahan, L., Charanya, T., & Saha, D. et al. (2014). Bioinspired Polarization Imaging Sensors: From Circuits and Optics to Signal Processing Algorithms and Biomedical Applications. Proc. IEEE, 102(10), 1450-1469. doi:10.1109/jproc.2014.2342537

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