Israeli researchers developed a breathalyzer that can detect diseases – such as cancer and multiple sclerosis – much earlier than the current diagnosis technologies.
“Current cancer diagnosis techniques are ineffective and impractical,” Haick told The Times of Israel when discussing the technology in 2014. A breathalyzer approach could “facilitate faster therapeutic intervention, replacing expensive and time-consuming clinical follow-up” that would result in the same intervention, said Haick.
When diseases grow in a body, they ramp up production of detectable chemicals, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). According to authors of a recent study published in ACS Nano, ancient medicine used “smell tests” to subjectively identify signs of diseases in a patient’s breath. Haick’s team has taken that premise and applied it to more objective and quantitative technology that is small enough to be used point-of-care.
To establish a “breathprint” of different diseases, researchers collected 2,800 breath samples from over 1,400 subjects, diagnosed with 17 different diseases using traditional methods. Each breath was analyzed for compounds and quantity ratios to establish connections between VOCs and disease, using a nanoarray made from gold nanoparticles and single-wall carbon nanotubes. This data was then plugged into AI technology and used in a device to diagnose diseases like multiple sclerosis, Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis, a variety of cancers and chronic kidney failure. The device was accurate “nearly nine out of 10 times,” said researchers.