Chemical Nose Can "Smell" Cancer

The next wave of cancer diagnosis techniques might rely on a newly-invented chemical nose. The nose can sniff out different types of cancer by detecting any abnormal cells developing in your body.

In the June 23rd issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, scientists described their cancer-detecting electric nose. It can process sample cells and sniff out harmful ones, the same way a human nose uses selective receptors to detect certain smells.

The chemical nose includes three such receptors now, but the researchers have hundreds more that they can add to the array, making the chemical nose more and more useful.

What makes this technology so powerful is its ability to adapt. When the human nose detects a new smell, the brain records the new smell and can remember previously experienced smells. The same is true of the chemical nose: it can cross-reference everything it detects with an extensive memory of cancer markers, creating new patterns when it needs to.

The result is an adaptable, precise method for cataloging and detecting new markers for various types of cancer. And just as a human nose can tell when something is "off," the chemical nose can also signal any abnormality, even if it can't pinpoint precisely what the problem is.

Now that this chemical nose can sniff cancer, maybe we can give the cancer sniffing cat a break.

'Chemical Nose' May Sniff Out Cancer Earlier [via Science Daily]

For further reading: What's the Future of Cancer Diagnosis?

(Image: an illustration of the chemical nose receptors at work, from University of Massachusetts Amherst)