Monday, July 8th, 2013.
An electronic nose might sound funny, but since the 1950’s, scientists have been working to develop systems that mimic the human bodies olfactory system. “Electronic-sensing” or “e-sensing” was first developed to measure smell by using electronic sensors that reacted to different molecules.
The past 10 years have seen the development of an electronic nose that uses carbon sensor arrays coupled with learning algorithms to find patterns in the breath of humans. When a person exhales, they emit a mix of various volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Using this technology, scientists have been able to find patterns in the VOCs and can distinguish between certain diseases such as COPD, lung cancer and mesothelioma in the early stages of the diseases. The European Respiratory Journal has reported that scientists are creating a breath test for mesotheiloma and that they have had an accuracy of 95% distinguishing from control subjects and patients with malignant mesothelioma.
A clinical breath test for mesothelioma could mean a real breakthrough for the diagnosis of this disease. Currently, the diagnosis of mesothelioma requires a biopsy of the lung tissue or a thoracoscopy. A non-invasive breath test could take as little as 10 minutes to administer. While these tests are not publicly available yet, they may be available in the next several years.
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