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Nano-sensor to be used for diagnosing lung cancer

Accounting for 28% of cancer related deaths in the world lung cancer is one of the deadliest diseases. A way has been devised by scientists from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa to diagnose lung cancer using a breath analyser containing gold nanoparticles. A paper published online in the journal Nature Nanotechnology shows how easy it is to diagnose lung cancer. Lung cancer accounts for 28 per cent (1.3 million) of cancer-related deaths in the world. According to a news item in the journal Nature, the researchers led by Hossam Haick used gold nanopartciles coated with a thin layer of organic material to diagnose lung cancer. 40 patients who had confirmed lung cancer and 56 healthy individuals were recruited for the trial. All the individuals were first asked to breathe deeply through a filter that purified the lungs. They were then asked to breathe into a bag. The air in the plastic bags served as the samples. The air from the bags was then blown into the gold-silicon circuit.

The gold-silicon sensors, when used in an array, were able to detect many volatile compounds. The team used conventional methods like gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to detect 42 compounds that were found at elevated levels in lung cancer patients. The team finally zeroed in on four compounds. However, requirement of adequate pre-treatment of simulated breath samples is one of the major drawbacks of the nanotubes. The team realised something very important after they finished their paper. With this sensor patients were not required to avoid alcohol, coffee, tobacco, or food before tests, all of which had confounded previous devices. The authors have already started a large-scale study to thoroughly probe if the sensors are able to pick up cancer in patients irrespective of diet and alcohol consumption, metabolic state and genetics.

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