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Simple sensor can detect disease


Your breath could soon reveal more than what you last ate – it could be used to indicate signs of disease.

That’s because a team of researchers from the University of Illinois has developed a throw away sensor that can do just that. It has made an organic plastic material that can detect ammonia levels in the breath, which can point to potential kidney problems.

“In the clinical setting, physicians use bulky instruments, basically the size of a big table, to detect and analyze these compounds. We want to hand out a cheap sensor chip to patients so they can use it and throw it away,” said professor Ying Diao’s, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Illinois.

The researchers made sensors from porous thin films of organic conductive plastics with the goal of portable, disposable devices for medical and environmental monitoring. Credit to L. Brian Stauffer

Professor Diao said the team will continue to add more functionality to the sensors, so they can pick up other health issue from breath, that can “more accurately point to signs of potential health issues.”

Sensors are increasingly being used in diagnoses. A recent collaboration project between two American universities, for example, developed a wearable that could detect diseases – including cystic fibrosis (CF) – from sweat.

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