Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Prying Mantis Shrimp
19 October 2014

Prying Mantis Shrimp

Possessing some of the most extraordinary eyes in the animal kingdom, the mantis shrimp (pictured) is now helping us to detect cancer. This crustacean’s stalk-mounted eyes deliver vision that extends into the infrared and ultraviolet. They can also detect differences in polarised light, a special kind of light in which waves radiate in various planes of direction. Now, researchers have borrowed a few design tricks from the mantis shrimp to build a tiny camera with similar sensitivity for polarised light. Unlike the naked human eye, the camera can 'see' miniscule differences that distinguish early-stage cancer cells from healthy cells. Polarised light cameras already exist, but they’re big and bulky. The mantis shrimp-inspired sensor is roughly 5mm x 5mm, meaning it can be fitted atop endoscopes to spot cancer cells in the colon and other hard-to-reach areas much earlier than was possible before.

Written by Daniel Cossins

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