May 23, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Breath Sensors Analyses Exhaled Air For Presence Of Cancer-Causing Pathogens

May 20, 2017 10:31 AM EDT

The breath sensor of harmful pathogens present in exhaled breath of humans will soon be available. The device will also be applicable as markers for airborne disease in buildings. The thin film pathogen detector is made of organic plastic that can indicate harmful bacteria in breath or toxins circulating in enclosed buildings. Results of the research are published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

The new study led by Professor Ying Diao and his team from the University of Illinois have a demonstration on how their breath sensor detects ammonia in a human breath, an indication of kidney failure. Diao and his group aim to make the process of detecting the harmful virus and other pathogens as simple as possible. He said that bulky instruments and other laboratory gadgets are being used when doing the analysis in a clinical setting, providing disposable strips in sensing disease-causing microbes makes it fast and simple, he added.

Previous experiments using organic semiconductors for gas leak detection failed due to the materials used for the strips were not sensitive enough to sense indicators. Diao and his team made adjustments realizing that the breath sensors' sensitivity is processed not on the surface of the strip but within the film. The present design is riddled with micro pores making it more reactive to airborne components, reports Physics.Org.

According to scientists, diseases like stomach, liver, and lung cancer are not detected as early as needed due to diagnostics difficulty. Furthermore, they are not totally diagnosed until the last stages of the victims' life expectancy. The introduction of these thin films will alleviate the need for early detection of diseases through breath sensors thereby prompting appropriate medical treatment.

Technalia, one of the contributors to the research of breath sensors, developed a sensor to earlier detect tumor growth in human lungs. Changes are taking place inside an organism of a sick person. This changes manifest in the air being breathed out and is detectable by the breath sensor that Technalia has developed, reports Science Daily.

Profesor Diao and his group are now working on breath sensors that could detect multiple compounds and disease indicators at once. The sensor will be very useful in environments where the disease is prevalent. Having multiple sensors will allow scientists to map out the real causes of health issues.

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