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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