A quick breath test could one day be all you need to find out if you have cancer, thanks to a new device that analyzes the chemical signature of exhaled gases in order to diagnose diseases. Created by an international team of researchers, led by scientists from the Israel Institute of Technology, the technology was able to sniff out disorders with 86 percent accuracy in a recent trial.
Publishing their findings in the journal American Chemical Society Nano, the study authors explain how they used a Nano-array consisting of carbon nanotubes and gold particles to isolate chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the breath of 1,404 people.
Of these, roughly 800 were suffering from one of 17 different diseases, while the rest were healthy. Using mass spectrometry, the team were able to identify the chemical signature of these 17 illnesses, each of which was characterized by specific concentrations of 13 particular VOCs.
The researchers then trained a computer algorithm to recognize these signatures, creating a potentially revolutionary diagnosis tool that uses artificial intelligence to provide a quick and non-invasive method to sniff out diseases like ovarian cancer, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis and many others.
Study co-author Hossam Haick told Smithsonian.com that the technology “works in the same way we'd use dogs in order to detect specific compounds. We bring something to the nose of a dog, and the dog will transfer that chemical mixture to an electrical signature and provide it to the brain, and then memorize it in specific regions of the brain.”
The only difference is that the device uses chemical sensors instead of a nose, and an algorithm instead of a brain.
According to RT News, the technology could be on the market in as little as five years’ time, and could potentially cost just $30.