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Shrimp Give Focus to Cancer

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Mantis shrimp eyes are superbly tuned to detect polarised light, inspiring the design of new cameras that can detect a variety of cancers and visualise brain activity.

According to Prof Justin Marshall of the Queensland Brain Institute, cancerous tissue reflects polarised light differently to surrounding healthy tissue. “Humans can’t see this, but a mantis shrimp could walk up to it and hit it,” he said.

“We see colour 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 polarised 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 colours that our visual system is comfortable with.”

Marshall said current scopes and imaging systems used polarised light to detect cancer, but the shrimp-inspired technology aimed to improve and widen these non-invasive detection methods, reducing the need for biopsies and guiding surgical procedures.

“Polarised sunglasses are the most common technology we use every day to reduce glare from water and wet roads,” he said. “They work because reflected light from these surfaces...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.