Scientists have developed a three-dimensional “framework” of nanoparticles. It will be able to detect even deficient concentrations of dissolved molecules in the air. This is a big step forward in measuring biomarkers – tiny molecules that play a role in disease – in human respiration.
The framework includes unique combinations of metallic and semiconducting nanoparticles. Each of them is thousands of times smaller than a human hair, which can be embedded in ultra-small sensors. These sensors can then be integrated into simple and small pocket diagnostic tools. When a risk of illness is detected, the devices will warn the user of the danger and encourage him to seek medical attention and additional tests as soon as possible.
Today’s optical sensors use sensitive materials that change color when exposed to high concentrations of biomarkers trapped in a liquid medium—for example, a urine test on a pregnancy test or a blood test for chronic conditions. Previous research has shown that biomarkers indicating serious illnesses such as diabetes and cancer can be found in breathing. However, their concentration is deficient, and modern optical sensors cannot measure them. It is hoped that the developed supersensitive materials will help people avoid developing chronic diseases, increase patient survival, and significantly reduce the associated costs in healthcare systems. It can also help eliminate the need for invasive testing procedures, such as blood tests.
People with a family history of chronic disease can use sensors that are tuned to check for specific medical conditions.
“The good thing about breathing is that it is full of biomarkers that can help us detect chronic diseases, but the concentration in gases is deficient,” explains Associate Professor Mohsen Rahmani, co-author of the study. “The problem so far has been the lack of a reliable detector. However, our new material could detect a low concentration of biomarkers that move freely in these environments. Our sensitive material does not require batteries, wires, or large and expensive laboratory equipment. This paves the way for the next generation of handheld sensors to quickly and reliably diagnose the disease at a very early stage. ”
A study demonstrating the development of ultrasensitive three-dimensional nanostructures has been published in the journal Advanced Materials.