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Researchers uncovered the chemical signatures of 17 diseases, including Parkinson's disease and eight kinds of cancer...Researchers uncovered the chemical signatures of 17 diseases, including Parkinson's disease and eight kinds of cancer...

 

Researchers uncovered the chemical signatures of 17 diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and eight kinds of cancer using an artificially intelligent nanoarray and mass spectrometry(Credit: American Chemical Society)

A team of international researchers recently unveiled a nano array that can identify the chemical signatures of 17 different diseases, that may soon be the day when doctors might be able to use a medical tricorder a la Star Trek to instantly diagnose a patient’s conditions.

Though it isn’t exactly a new idea – Hippocrates wrote about the correlation between breath odors and disease back in 400 B.C. Using breath tests to diagnose and monitor bodily disorders and disease is a research field that has been gaining momentum in recent years.  It would be the ultimate diagnostic test – potentially inexpensive and painless (not to mention a godsend for anyone with a fear of needles), and it would be able to deliver results fairly quickly too.

The technologies developed to date have a limited scope and are designed to detect only one kind of disease, such as a particular type of cancer or diabetes. Every time we exhale, we expel nitrogen, carbon dioxide, oxygen as well as a host of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the composition and concentration of which changes depending on our state of health.

Lead researcher Hossam Haick, an Israeli nanotech expert whose name is synonymous with disease-detecting sensors. “These odor signatures are what enables us to identify the diseases using the technology that we developed.”

To do this, the researchers used an artificially intelligent nano array of carbon nanotubes and gold particles developed by Haick to detect the individual components in breath samples collected from 1,404 patients spanning five countries: the United States, Israel, France, Latvia and China. Eight hundred and thirteen of them had one of 17 different diseases, including kidney cancer or Parkinson’s disease. The rest were healthy.

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