Biomarkers and Diagnostics
Breath-analysis Technology to Detect Cancer
- This image shows a new type of sensor for an advanced breath-analysis technology that rapidly diagnoses patients by detecting "biomarkers" in a person's respiration in real time. Researchers used a template made of micron-size polymer particles and coated them with much smaller metal oxide nanoparticles. Using nanoparticle-coated microparticles instead of a flat surface allows researchers to increase the porosity of the sensor films, increasing the "active sensing surface area" to improve sensitivity. (Purdue University and NIST)
Researchers have overcome a fundamental obstacle in developing breath-analysis technology to rapidly diagnose patients by detecting chemical compounds called "biomarkers" in a person's respiration in real time. The researchers demonstrated their approach is capable of rapidly detecting biomarkers in the parts per billion to parts per million range, at least 100 times better than previous breath-analysis technologies, said Carlos Martinez, an assistant professor of materials engineering at Purdue who is working with researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The technology works by detecting changes in electrical resistance or conductance as gases pass over sensors built on top of "microhotplates," tiny heating devices on electronic chips. Detecting biomarkers provides a record of a patient's health profile, indicating the possible presence of cancer and other diseases. The researchers used the technology to detect acetone, a biomarker for diabetes, with a sensitivity in the parts per billion range in a gas mimicking a person's breath.
Read more on the technical details in the original publication ‘Microsensors in Dynamic Backgrounds: Toward Real-Time Breath Monitoring'that appeared in 2009 in the IEEE Sensors Journal, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' IEEE Sensors Council. The paper was co-authored by Martinez and NIST researchers Steve Semancik, lead author Kurt D. Benkstein, Baranidharan Raman and Christopher B. Montgomery.