Breath Test to Detect Breast Cancer

Photo: A woman blows breath out of her mouth

The cornerstone of the device, and what makes it possible, is the switchable surface technology developed in Joerg Lahann’s laboratory, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan.

The IDEA proposal states that the switchable surfaces have molecularly designed sites that will attract certain metabolites indicative of breast cancer. These sites are actually little nanopockets about 6.4 nm2 in size, that interact with oil and water. The metabolites are also very small and they are attracted to the oil and water pockets.

The switchable surfaces can be engineered to stand up or lie down. The surfaces switch when electrical charges are applied to make the straight particles bend. When upright, the spaces between the particles are open, and will attract the metabolites.

Theoretically, a woman could breathe into an over-the-counter device and cancer-indicating metabolites would be attracted into the nanopockets, thus causing the pored surface to fill and become dense. Then, an electrical charge would be applied so that the straight particles would bend, thus ejecting the metabolites so that multiple tests could be done in the same device. You can detect the metabolites through a change in conductance or optically.

The idea materialized when Lahann's graduate student David Pang found two papers that showed certain molecules, called metabolites that could mark breast cancer, are present in breath and urine. "We realized that if one could put these molecules in a screening platform, they might develop a non-invasive, quick and inexpensive over-the-counter breast cancer screening test," Lahann said.

COMPAMED.de; Source: University of Michigan