Sniffer dogs could one day be replaced by mice, as Chinese scientists claim to have discovered a more cost-friendly way to detect drugs and explosives by using the tiny rodents.
Ma Yuanye, a neurologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Kunming Institute of Zoology, said that he and his research team needed only five days to train mice to respond to different smells, and that they did so with 98 percent accuracy.
To conduct the experiment, five mice were placed in separate compartments of a briefcase-sized box before various odors were released, SCMP explains.
If a mouse touched the alarm sensor in the presence of the compounds, it was rewarded; if it triggered a false alarm, the reward was decreased or even eliminated.
The responses were transmitted wirelessly from the sensors to a computer, which recorded and analysed the results for each mouse.
False alarms were rare, Ma said.
The computer drew its conclusions from the responses of all five mice, rather than any one individual, to increase accuracy.
“It is a fully automated process. Human intervention in training will become history,” Ma said in a paper published in Scientific Reports this month.
The research team believes that a detection system using mice, which are cheaper and take less time to train, would be far more effective than sniffer dogs and bulky machines—especially in terms of mobility.
“It can be used indoors or outdoors, almost any areas in need of chemical detection, especially places unsuitable for dogs or impossible for big machines,” Ma said. Plus it sounds fucking adorable.
This isn’t the first time in recent years Chinese researchers have claimed to have made a scientific breakthrough with the use of mice. In 2012, researchers found that a drug made from a plant called “thunder god vine”, commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, destroyed pancreatic tumors in the furry critters. In a significantly less crucial experiment, mice were forced to soak in -0.12 degrees Celsius water to test the plausibility of philanthropist Chen Guangbiao’s thirty-minute ice bucket challenge. The creatures died after only minutes.