This Breathalyzer Reveals Signs of Disease – Science Nation

This Breathalyzer Reveals Signs of Disease – Science Nation

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PERENA: Try to take a very long,
slow exhale. MILES O’BRIEN: This device gives
new meaning to the term, “bad breath.” PERENA: The device is meant to
capture a single exhale and use it to detect a bio-marker
signaling molecules in exhaled breath, to detect diseases or
metabolic malfunctions. (To man:) Exhale once, slowly. MILES O’BRIEN: No, you can’t buy
one now. The breathalyzer is in clinical trials. But soon you
might be able to detect a whole range of diseases and disorders-
diabetes, high cholesterol, even lung cancer- by just blowing
into it. PERENA: You really have people
taking charge of their own health, because they can get
something over the counter, and it can now be a first response
or first detection type of device. MILES O’BRIEN: With help from
the National Science Foundation, Perena Gouma, and her team at
Stony Brook University, developed a sensor chip that you
might say is the “brain” of the breathalyzer. It’s coated with
tiny nano-wires that detect minute amounts of chemical
compounds in the breath. PERENA: We know how to make, in
large quantities and inexpensive way. Therefore they can be very
affordable. MILES O’BRIEN: The manufacturing
process is called electro-spinning. It starts with
a liquid compound, shot from a syringe into an electrical
field. That crystalizes it into a tiny thread that collects onto
an aluminum backing. PERENA: Each of these different
nano-wires, we call them, can capture a particular chemical or
particular compound. MILES O’BRIEN: For example, the
blue molecules seen here represent ammonia. They get
caught up in the molecular structure of the nano-wires.
Gouma says ammonia is a marker that indicates a potential
kidney problem. PERENA: Nitric-oxide, for
example, is now a widely-known marker for asthma monitoring and
other oxidative stress-related diseases. We have acetone for
diabetes monitoring. MILES O’BRIEN: Gouma says the
nano-wires can be rigged to detect infectious viruses and
microbes, like salmonella, E. coli, or even anthrax. PERENA: There are so many other
application we haven’t envisioned, so it’s very
exciting. It’s a whole new world. MILES O’BRIEN: And a faster and
simpler diagnosis might help us all breathe a little easier. For Science Nation,
I’m Miles O’Brien.

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