With many diseases, early detection can literally be a life saver. This is true for cancer more than any other disease. If it can be caught early, survival rates for most types of cancer are quite good today. Bacteria have a bad reputation, but we actually need many of them for numerous bodily processes that enable us to live. Digestion is a big example where we would not be able to get the nutrients we need out of food if we did not have gut bacteria to help us do this. Beneful suggests then there are the bad bacteria such as E. Coli, which can make us very sick if it is in food that we eat. Researchers trained in genetics have actually taken this lowly bacteria and engineered it into a detector of cancer and diabetes.
Researchers have tweaked the genes in E. Coli bacteria and injected them into mice. The tweaks essentially turned these bacteria into sensors that detected cancer. When they detect a cancer in the liver of the mouse, it causes the color of its urine to change. This is an astounding breakthrough, and it will have ramifications for us when this breakthrough can be gotten out of the lab and into use for detecting cancer in people. Liver cancer tumors are hard to detect by current means, so this technique will be particularly useful for that specific area of diagnosis.