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Charlie, a German shepherd, and Alfie, a labradoodle, are being trained to sharpen their ability to identify the scent of cancer in human breath, saliva, and urine. A multi-disciplinary team of animal experts from UC Davis, as well as physicians and veterinarians from the surrounding area, are coming together to train the two dogs.
Alfie, a labradoodle, is one of the four-month-old puppies.
Charlie, a German shepherd, is also four months old.
Sniffing out cancer will be Charlie and Alfie’s special job.
Humans have five million olfactory receptors in their nose, but compared to dogs who have more than 220 million receptors, us humans pale in comparison! This allows canines to detect smells 10,000 to 100,000 times better than their two-legged best friends. Dogs are perfect for the job because of their high-powered super sniffers!
“If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away…” sensory expert James Walker put it plainly, during an interview for the PBS show NOVA.
Led by dog expert Dina Zaphiris, who has trained dozens of canines to detect ovarian and breast cancer, Charlie and Alfie will begin scent training. The pups will spend the next twelve months undergoing rigorous training. Since the pups will work so closely with humans, socialization is also an important part of the training. This includes not only recognizing cancer but learning to ignore everything else. All of this is to prepare the dynamic duo when they begin screening individuals in a UC Davis clinical trial in early 2016.
The dogs’ incredible talent for scent detection could offer us humans a real jump on diagnosing cancer much earlier, and thus save many more lives . . . our new canine colleagues represent a unique weapon in the battle against cancer.”
Alfie and Charlie may also be the breakthrough for research in the near future.
Researchers aren’t exactly sure what the dogs are smelling, but if they study dogs like Alfie and Charlie and diagnose the organic compound, they might be able to reverse-engineer a tool or test for more dependable early detection. Dogs and their sensitive noses are sniffing out a specific molecular compound when they identify cancer.
Watch an interview about this cancer-sniffing dogs below.
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