Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and Technion University-Israel have successfuly used gold nanoparticle chemiresistors as a novel way to test for lung cancers in a patient’s breath. This technology can diagnose lung cancer through non-invasive and fast techniques with astonishing accuracy by comparing the composition of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in a patient’s breath to a control composition.
The test can distinguish between small and non-small cell cancer as well as adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. The test works by having a patient breathe into a filtered bag that separates over 99% of environmental VOCs, leaving only the VOCs created in the patient’s lungs. The patient repeats the lung test four more times, prapeing five samples for the chemresistor array. The researchers then collect the five bags and analyze them with the gold nanoparticle sensors by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The gold nanoparticles show a change in resistance as pulses of the patient’s breath and ambient air are passed over the sensor array. These changes in resistance are then recorded and analyzed to determine the presence and type of cancer in the patient.
This technology has the potential to diagnose lung cancer faster and more accurately for less than current lung cancer treatment and monitoring techniques. Additionally, this type of monitoring is non-invasive and does not require the use of x-rays, MRIs or other techniques that can cause stress to the body.
The gold nanoparticle are synthesized in solution and are applied to the silicon chips via electron beam evaporation. This process prevents the particles from being aerosolized reducing the risks associated with nanoparticles. Risks still exist of release of chemical solutions related to the manufacture of the gold nanoparticles, but this risk is likely low in a controlled laboratory environment.