Who would have thought the fruit fly would have some use to science? In one of the most exciting findings in cancer research, scientists have bred a strain of them whose antennae can glow when they smell cancer.

Researchers at Germany's University of Konstanz discovered that the fruit fly's extremely sensitive odor receptors, which not only explains why they suddenly appear at trash cans, but they can also distinguish cancerous cells from healthy cells based on the metabolic gases the cells emit.

The research team genetically engineered a strain of fly with scent receptors on their antennae that glow when they detect the odor of cancer. The bugs' antennae give off different patterns depending on the type of cancer cell they're exposed to as well.

"As not only cancer cells can be distinguished from healthy cells, but also subgroups were discernible within the cancer cells, it seems that even different types of breast cancer cells can be differentiated via the antenna," said University of Konstanz researcher Alja Lüdke.

And this isn't by chance either, because the fruit fly's nose is actually more sensitive than current gas sensors. This could eventually lead to affordable cancer detecting sensors. [University of Konstanz via PopSci]