Electronic nose sniffs out medical conditions
R Colin Johnson
10/5/2010 11:28 PM EDT
PORTLAND, Ore.–Electronic nose sensors can not only detect disease but can also diagnose its progress, according to Stony Brook University researchers. Nanowire-arrays of ultrasensitive sensors offer improved gas sensitivity, faster response and lower level detection than conventional approaches, promising to eliminate the need for blood tests in favor of breath-based diagnoses, the researchers say.
Led by Professor Perena Gouma, director of the Center for Nanomaterials and Sensor Development at Stony Brook, the super-sensitive sensors are currently entering the clinical trial stage. In the trials, diabetes patients will use the electronic nose to detect the levels of acetone in their breath, which the researchers say are elevated in direct proportion to how much the disease has depressed blood sugar levels, thus eliminating the need for taking a blood sample.
According to Gouma, many diseases could be more easily detected and controlled by using an electronic nose tuned to the specific chemical markers found only in the breath of patients suffering from that malady. For instance, for asthma, a nitric oxide sensor would allow an electronic nose to track that condition. Even serious diseases like lung cancer, which is hard to detect in early stages, can be sensed by an electronic nose, according to Gouma.
Electronic nose sniffs out chemical markers for disease with sensors crafted by electrospinning nanofiber and nanowire structures.
Funding for the Stony Brook project was provided by the National Science Foundation for pre-clinical trials of the diabetes sensor.