Diagnosing illnesses can sometimes take a lot of time and money. Some medical procedures that go beyond mere prodding can also be very painful.
However, thanks to a new device developed by researchers in Israel, doctors could soon determine a person's illness simply by getting a quick read of their breath. Just one puff is all it takes.
Prof. Hossam Haick and his colleagues at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology built a breathalyzer called Na-Nose, which can detect 17 various diseases by analyzing markers present in the human breath.
Among the illnesses the Na-Nose breathalyzer can diagnose are prostate, colorectal, ovarian, and lung cancer as well as multiple sclerosis, Crohn's, Parkinson's, and kidney disease.
Of course, one of the biggest challenges in today’s world is trying to find out if a person is sick, especially if they don’t feel anything wrong at all. According to Haick, the purpose of the new breathalyzer is to check possible illnesses that may already be starting or predict diseases that could emerge later on.
With the Na-Nose device, doctors can analyze a patient’s breath for underlying diseases faster and more affordably.
Developing The Breathalyzer
Haick and his team of researchers discovered that humans individually have a unique and distinct type of breathprint. Along with making the discovery, they also developed an artificial nose capable of detecting diseases with considerable accuracy and an affordable price as well.
As we breathe, the lungs emit carbon dioxide from the body then prepare it again for inhaling fresh oxygen. But there are also other components of air, such as nitrogen, unused oxygen, and many more, which get inhaled and exhaled.
Studies in the past have led to the identification of 100 other chemical compounds we exhale in each breath; 13 of which are associated with such diseases.
The Na-Nose contains nanoparticles of gold that interact with each puff of breath.
In the journal ACS Nano, the researchers detailed how data on 2,800 breaths collected from 1,404 patients helped produce datasets on the type and quantity of chemicals present in a person's breath. Each test subject suffered from either one of these disease classes: inflammation, cancer, or neurological disorders.
The Na-Nose determined patterns from the datasets through the help of artificial intelligence. The breathalyzer examined what levels of chemicals were considered healthy. The Na-Nose does not rely on simple guesses but on quantifiable data. When traces of certain chemicals are detected, these imply that something might be wrong.
The research continues by testing the Na-Nose breathalyzer in real-world setups.
"We have examined Na-Nose in 19 hospitals worldwide, on more than 8,000 patients," Haick said.
Some scientists have also tried to develop other variations of this technology to allow animals such as dogs to detect illnesses in humans, all through the animals' sense of smell. However, having an inexpensive tool like the Na-Nose, which can accomplish virtually the same task, can make it easier for other people in different parts of the world to get proper diagnosis even if resources are limited.
In a video that discusses the findings of their work, Haick said that they are working on incorporating the technology into mobile devices. This could perhaps allow people to detect illnesses using just a breathalyzer app or tool in their smartphone in the same way they take a selfie with a few taps on the screen.
Watch the video below to know more about the Na-Nose breathalyzer: