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Scientists in Japan have discovered a way mosquitoes can detect cancer in a human’s breath.

The research team, led by Professor Shoji Takeuchi of the University of Tokyo, believe their method, which uses mosquito olfactory receptors from the insect’s antenna, will be ready within 10 years.

Mosquito (Getty)

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Professor Takeuchi’s team’s findings were published in the US Journal Science Advances.

A mosquito’s antennae have about 100 kinds of smell receptors that can detect specific odours.

When the receptor connects with a specific smell molecule, an opening appears on the cellular membrane to let smell ions enter the cell and be detected, the paper says.

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Professor Takeuchi’s team created an artificial cellular membrane embedded with a mosquito’s smell receptor that can detect ocetenol, a chemical found in human sweat and can be used as a biomarker for liver cancer.

A lunch box-sized prototype detected octenol at a concentration of 0.5 parts per billion in breath samples within 10 minutes, according to the team.