MS can be diagnosed early with ‘electronic nose’

Young chemical engineer and colleagues at Technion has been proven to detect lung and other cancers from breath, also multiple sclerosis.

October 14, 2011 03:18
2 minute read.
Ariel Miller and Hossam Haick

Ariel Miller and Hossam Haick 311. (photo credit: Technion)


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The “electronic nose,” developed by a young chemical engineer and his colleagues at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, has been proven to detect lung and other cancers from breath. It has also succeeded in diagnosing in the same way multiple sclerosis.

The non-invasive technique using sensors, which has been called a “breakthrough” in early diagnosis of the disease that first appears in young adults, was reported in the latest issue of the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

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Prof. Hossam Haick, who still in his 30s has received numerous prestigious scientific awards, developed the electronic sensor in the Technion’s chemical engineering faculty and the Russell Berrie Institute for Nanotechnology Research, together with Prof. Ariel Miller of the Technion’s Rappaport Medical Faculty and Carmel Medical Center in Haifa.

While no cure has yet been found for MS, in which the immune system of the body mistakenly regards the myelin coating of nerves as a “stranger” and attacks it, a number of medications – most of them, like Copaxone, developed in Israel – can slow and reduce the neurological attacks that can cause loss of muscle function, paralysis and pain.

Conventional diagnosis of MS, which first appears as numbed nerves, has been via expensive MRI scanning and the examination of spinal fluid. But in their first clinical study, Haick and Miller identified organic compounds in the breath that are a sign of MS. They developed nanometric sensors and tested them on 34 MS patients and 17 normal volunteers. The results were found to be accurate.

The researchers predicted that MS could be diagnosed at an early stage and non-invasively using the sensors.

“It is a very early stage, and the research will continue with the aim of developing speedy diagnosis for MS and other chronic neurological diseases. The sensors could also detect neurological attacks after the disease is diagnosed so treatment to halt the attacks can be given.”

Haick is the founder and chief scientific officer of the Nanose Ltd., a leading developer of advanced nanotechnology for cancer detection by breath analysis.

He received his BSc. from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and completed his PhD in chemical engineering at the Technion in 2002. After a two-year period at the Weizmann Institute of Science, he went to the California Institute of Technology-Caltech for postdoctoral research and returned to the Technion in 2006. He has received a Fulbright fellowship, the Science and Technology Ministry award, Prof. Avrahami prize, and CNR-IMIP prize.

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