01 June 2012

Artificial Noses as Diseases Busters

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Researchers are now developing new artificial noses for disease diagnostics applications. They have yet to meet the challenge of distinguishing different smells to detect different diseases

Artificial noses have, until now, been used to detect diseases such as urinary tract infection, Helicobacter pylori, tuberculosis, ear, nose and throat conditions and even lung cancer. They have also been clinically tested for use in continuous monitoring of different disease stages.

Now, a multidisciplinary research team with eight European partners is collaborating under a EU-funded project called Bioelectronic Olfactory Neuron Device, dubbed BOND. Their aim is to develop a very sensitive and selective device that can detect and distinguish different types of smells.

This system relies on functionalized electrodes binding to olfactory receptors capable of sending tiny electric signals, which are subsequently detected and amplified. The challenge is to develop whole new arrays of olfactory receptors to process different smells for different diseases.

Its applications are manifold. For example, prostate cancer could be detected through the analysis of urine samples. The project researchers combined artificial intelligence with sensing technologies to design noses that display greater performance than currently available olfactory technology.

The efforts of the EU research consortium to detect diseases through an electronic nose in patients urine are not isolated. Other researchers at the University of Warwick, UK, developed an electronic nose sensing volatile organic compounds from urine as a means to separate patients with diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and controls.

Artificial noses represent a non-invasive, rapid diagnosis tool, which could allow quick disease screening and ultimately significantly transform diagnostics.

 

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