Soon, breath and urine tests to detect cancer, asthma diabetes

WASHINGTON - It may soon be possible to detect cancer or diabetes using breath or urine samples, says a University of Missouri researcher.

Xudong “Sherman” Fan, investigator in the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center is developing a sensor device that will analyze breath or urine samples for volatile markers inside the body that indicate whether a patient has breast cancer, diabetes or asthma.

The volatile markers, such as alkanes, acetones or nitric oxide, give doctors clues about what is happening inside the body and can be used as a diagnostic tool.

“Little traces of certain gas molecules in the breath or urine tell us if anything unusual is going on in the body,” said Fan,

“Measuring these volatile markers would be a non-invasive way to determine if a disease is present without having to draw blood or complete a biopsy. In addition to the biomarkers already discovered, many more potential volatile markers are still under investigation,” he added.

The sensor device known as the opto-fluidic ring resonator (OFRR) is an optical gas sensor that consists of a polymer-lined glass tube that guides the flow of a gas vapor and a ring resonator that detects the molecules that pass through the glass tube.

As the gas vapor enters the device, molecules in the vapor separate and react to the polymer lining. Light makes thousands of loops around the gas or liquid sample.

The more the light loops around the sample, the more the light energy interacts with the gas vapor. These repetitive interactions enable the detection of vapor molecules down to a very small quantity.

The use of OFRR is not restricted to medical industry it can have even broader implications in the field of defence.

The device can improve the detection of explosives on the battlefield.

“We hope to design a vapor sensor that has ultra-high sensitivity, specific and rapid response to a certain molecule, as well as the ability of on-the-spot chemical analyses, which usually requires the sensor to be small, portable, reusable and have less power consumption,” said Fan.

“If the gas sensor is portable, military personnel can determine more quickly whether an area is dangerous,” he added.

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