Issue Date: September 7, 2009
Nanoparticle Array Smells Cancer
An inexpensive instrument that makes use of functionalized gold nanoparticles could be used to quickly check people for lung cancer, offering them an early warning that could greatly increase their chances of survival if they have the disease (Nat. Nanotechnol., DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2009.235). Gang Peng, Ulrike Tisch, and Hossam Haick of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and colleagues began by comparing the levels of volatile organic compounds in the breath of healthy individuals and cancer patients. They identified 33 substances such as toluene and 2,6,6-trimethyloctane that are telltale signs of lung cancer and developed an array of nine gold nanoparticle chemiresistors that can make measurements directly from human breath. Unlike earlier sensors, which used carbon nanotubes as sensing elements, the gold nanoparticle arrays don't require preconcentration of samples and can function in high humidity. The researchers tested the instrument on 40 lung cancer patients, 56 healthy people, and simulated breath mixtures. Using principal component analysis, they were able to clearly distinguish between the groups.
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