Da nose knows – hahchachacha……..

Most of you are way too young to remember Jimmy Durante, but that was one of his signature phrases…..except now, it has increasing relevance as researchers in Israel have developed an artificial nose sniffs out cancer.

An artificial electronic “nose” that uses nanomaterials to recognize patterns of molecules in exhaled breath was able to distinguish between patients with head and neck or lung cancer 

Jimmy Durante

Cover of Jimmy Durante

and healthy controls, according to a study by researchers in Israel published by the British Journal of Cancer this week.

The Nanoscale Artificial Nose (NA-NOSE) was developed by senior author of the study, Professor H Haick, and his group at Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. They hope the results of their study will lead to the development of a fast, reliable and cost-effective tool for the differential diagnosis of head and neck cancer, and possibly also a screening tool, based on the artificial nose.

Head and neck cancer is a group of cancers that affect the lip, the mouth, the nasal cavity, sinuses, salivary glands, pharynx and larynx. It is the eighth most common cancer in the world, and in the US for example, it accounts for between 3 and 5% of all cancers.

Head and neck cancer is often diagnosed late, because of a lack of screening methods. Patients treated for head and neck cancer are also at higher risk of developing a new cancer in their aero-digestive tract, usually in the head and neck, esophagus, or lungs, so they need to have regular checkups for life.

NA-NOSE uses an array of five gold nanoparticle sensors and computer algorithms to detect patterns of volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath.

Because of the small size of the nanoparticle sensors, thousands of times smaller than the thickness of human hair, a few molecules are enough to change the electrical properties of their material, which in the case of the NA-NOSE is based on gold and platinum “functionalized” with organic ligands customized to sense particular organic compounds.

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