Wow. These Israeli inventions just keep coming, don’t they? We’ve heard of cancer sniffing dogs, so why not program some artificial intelligence to do the same thing? Revealed this week in Nature Nanotechnology journal, the “cancer breathalyzer” can detect lung cancer with 86 percent accuracy. It can even detect cancers that are not even large enough to show up on X-rays or CT scans. Detecting cancer that early could really save lives. The wonders of affordable technology!
How does it work? It tests for chemicals that are produced in cancer cells. They are ethylbenzene, decane, heptanol, and trimethylbenzne.
From what I remember from my organic chemistry days, these are all very flammable, but no, the detection does not involve attempting to set a patient’s breath on fire. There isn’t enough of it for that. Decane is a very long chain of hydrocarbons (ten carbons long actually) found in jet fuel, and heptanol is a 7-carbon chain with a hydroxide group at the end, making it an alcohol. Ha, college. The alcohol we drink, ethanol, is a 2-carbon alcohol. Don’t drink heptanol. It won’t make you any more drunk, but it will likely cause you, in drinkable amounts that is, to become dead.
The chemicals are detected using gold nanoparticles and an electric circuit. If the breath contains heptanol etc, the circuit goes off.
The research team was led by Hossam Haick, an Israeli Arab, pictured here, also the inventor of the electric nose.
Haick and his team have patented their device, but will continue to work to perfect it. The device must pass further clinical trials before being put to use. Good job Hossam!
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