Will you soon be diagnosed just by breathing?

Technion researcher proves 86% diagnostic accuracy in five-nation study.

December 22, 2016 23:29
2 minute read.
PROF. HOSSAM HAICK breathes on a sensor he developed that is capable of identifying various chronic

PROF. HOSSAM HAICK breathes on a sensor he developed that is capable of identifying various chronic diseases by analyzing components in a person’s breath.. (photo credit: TECHNION)


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A 2,400-year-old medical hypothesis – that various diseases carry “chemical seals” identifiable in breath samples – has been confirmed by an international study led by Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Prof. Hossam Haick.

Only 41 years old, the Arab Christian professor of chemical engineering used special sensors to study 1,404 patients, reaching a diagnostic accuracy rate of 86%. His findings were just published in the journal ACS Nano.

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Haick studied 17 chronic diseases having no connection to each other. Those included: cancer of the colon, lung, prostate, head and neck, ovaries, stomach and bladder; Parkinson’s disease; Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis; irritable bowel syndrome; multiple sclerosis; pulmonary hypertension; preeclampsia and chronic kidney disease.

“Each of the sensors responds to a wide range of breath components,” he explained. “And the integration of information provides detailed data on the signature unique disease characteristics.

Our system has made the discovery and classification of various diseases exact an average of 86%. So this is a new direction and ensures the diagnosis and classification of diseases at low cost, low power consumption, miniaturization, comfort and the possibility to repeat the test easily.”

Haick’s research team collected breath samples between 2011 and 2014 in 14 departments of nine medical centers in five countries: Israel, France, the US, Latvia and China. All observed the same protocols.

In addition to breath samples, they took conventionally used chemical samples and used mass spectrometry to assess the exact amounts of chemical compounds in each. Chemical components were found in each of the 17 diseases. The Technion scientist said that each disease is characterized by a unique “fingerprint” that differentiates it from other diseases.

Haick received numerous prestigious scientific awards while still in his 30s for development of various electronic sensors. He found exhaled breath to be an excellent raw material for diagnosis, as it doesn’t require any invasive or unpleasant tests and poses no danger.

His team also developed an “artificially intelligent nanoarray” made up of many sensors that uses artificial, or computer, intelligence to analyze breath. Some of the sensors are made of layers of nanometric gold particles, while others have a network of nanometric carbon tubes coated with an organic layer for sensing and identification.

To verify the accuracy of the tests, various factors such as gender, age, smoking habits and place of residence were examined for any possible effect on results. Those variables were found to be negligible and did not harm the nanometric system’s sensitivity, Haick said.

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