Home > Health > It is possible to smell cancer

It is possible to smell cancer


Taking a breath

Taking a breath

It may be possible to ‘smell’ someone’s breath and give them an early warning of cancer.  Researchers at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa built a sensor that can smell cancer. It uses gold nanoparticles to check for a specific set of volatile organic chemicals that are emitted by malignant cells.

The chemiresistors were assembled from gold nanoparticles that are 5nm in diameter and functionalized with different organic compounds that allowed them to sense the biomarkers.  It is hoped that an early warning may increase a patient’s  chances of survival.

The device uses nine sets of the nanoparticles ad have been designed to change their electrical resistance in a particular way, depending on the type of chemical they have been exposed to.  What we exhale is an indication of the biochemical processes occuring in our body.  Whilst this is not a new idea, it has been tried by other research groups over the years, this is te first technology which works well in a humid environment – eg breath from someone.  It is also the first device to be small enough to be usuable.  Early results have shown that it is possible to obtain reliable lung cancer diagnoses from analyzing the exhaled breath using portable equipment that doesn’t require any pretreatment of the sample. This is a significant step forward.
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Categories: Health
  1. 02/01/2010 at 2:16 pm

    An interesting article – years ago village midwives and (unqualified) medical practitioners looked to bodily signs such as saliva and breath for diagnosis, perhaps technology is catching up.

    Why not date your entries?

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