A new device can analyze various chemicals from exhaled breath and tell if a person has cancer, different types of sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome and other diseases.

The Na-Nose is easy to use, easy to carry and affordable. Once trials are done, it will be available on the market and will later be incorporated in smartphones. A new study shows that the breathalyzer is 86 percent accurate when identifying 17 different disease conditions. The small device uses nanotechnology that can detect each disease’s unique breathprint. Thus, the apparatus distinguishes each illness and gives a preliminary diagnose based on breath.

Breathalyzer, Na-Nose
Schematic representation of the concept and design of the study. Image credit: ACS Nano.

The research involved people from Israel, France, the United States, Latvia and China and used more than one sample of each individual’s breath in blind tests. The Na-Nose analyzed each person’s volatile organic compounds -found in exhaled breath- to discover if the participant had any of the 17 diseases the device is capable of diagnosing.

Hossam Haick of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology led the study and explained via Youtube that the Na-Nose imitates a human’s or dog’s sense of smell to analyze a patient’s breath.

The Na-Nose not only detects certain conditions but also warns of certain diseases the person might develop in the future.

Haick stressed that the most important aspect of the breathalyzer is that it will offer an easy method to early detect diseases, increasing people’s chance of survival. Haick said that the Na-Nose could increase -with lung cancer alone- an individual’s survival rate from 10 percent to 70 percent if the device detects the condition early.

Testing the Na-Nose

The recent study carried a multicenter clinical assessment to examine the Na-Nose and its single artificially intelligent nanoarray to detect and classify a range of health conditions.

The tests included 2808 breath samples collected from 1404 subjects from different continents to see if the small device could detect one or more of the 17 diseases belonging to three broad categories: cancerous, inflammatory, and neurological. The device can also identify healthy individuals, which formed a control group of 591 people.

The study took into consideration primary demographic and environmental factors to get better results, including sex, age, smoking habits, and geographical location.

There are thousands of VOCs, but the Na-Nose only uses 13 to identify more than 15 diseases. Each VOC is linked to several conditions. For example, the VOC isoprene is related to chronic liver disease, kidney disease, and diabetes while the VOC nonanal is associated with breast and ovarian cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.

What lets the Na-Nose differentiate each disease is a particular combination of VOCs that is typical of one disease, making the apparatus 86 percent efficient.

The Na-Nose has two nanolayers to analyze exhaled breath. One layer has carbon, and the other one does not. The carbon layer is the sensitive one that holds the exhaled VOCs, which interact with the organic sensing layer. The carbon layer then changes the electrical resistance of the carbon-free layer. The second layer contains modified gold nanoparticles and a system of nanotubes which provides electrical conductivity to the device to make it possible to study VOCs.

Once the sample was gathered, researchers used the collected VOCs and searched the combination in a database for disease with the same VOC concentration to deliver a diagnosis. All results were blind, meaning scientists did not know which condition the participants had or if they were healthy at all.

Haick stated that the Na-Nose has been used on thousands of more people since the trial started and added he would like to see the product on the market shortly.

Why the Na-Nose ‘smells’ our breath and not other things?

Physicians have been using their sense of smell since before Christ because volatile organic compounds are easy to diagnose and highly characteristic of many diseases.

In 400 BC and before, stools and urine of infant noblemen were smelt daily by their doctors to see if they had a condition. VOCs have relatively low molecular weight and express distinct and immediate changes as a consequence of pathophysiological processes occurring in the body when a disease has been contracted.

The findings were published on December 21 in the Journal ACS Nano. Image credit: www.glimpsinggrace.wordpress.com.

Apart from urine and breath, VOCs can also be detected directly from headspaces of the affected cells, blood, and other body fluids. Breath is easily and noninvasively accessible, it is not complex to analyze and can be handled safely, for which researchers chose it as a mean of diagnosing, the study said.

The Na-Nose is not the first device of modern science to use exhaled breath to identify certain conditions. Fields such as infectiology, respiratory medicine, and oncology have also used it to detect diseases in an individual. However, exhaled breath needed to meet the expectations of modern clinical practice, for which, Heick and colleagues developed the Na-Nose.

On the Youtube video, Heick said the Na-Nose could be integrated into daily life, including smartphones which could analyze people’s breath while they are talking on the phone. Heick explains that even when we feel healthy, the Na-Nose will be able to detect a silent disease.

Source: ACS Nano