Mexican researchers at the Research Center on Advanced Materials (CIMAV) are developing an electronic nose that can “smell” diabetes. Researchers aim for this project to develop a non-invasive instrument that can diagnose and monitor the disease without the need for blood tests.
An electronic nose is a device that contains an array of chemical sensors that detect and identify airborne chemicals that pass through it. In that sense the device imitates a human or animal nose. Initially developed for atmospheric analysis, electronic noses have found applications in gas detection, fire investigation, the food industry and their use in medicine is being explored.
The research group is developing polymers to detect and measure the levels of acetone, beta-hydroxybutyric acid and acetoacetic acid in human breath. These three chemicals exist in higher concentration in the breath of diabetics than in healthy individuals. The group is also patenting the technology behind a polymeric sensor to detect acetone.
Globally, diabetes kills 1.6 million people a year and the disease is a threat to over 400 million. In Mexico, it is estimated that 16 percent of individuals have diabetes type 2 and that half of them are unaware they are sick. Diabetes is the second main cause of death among Mexicans, right after cardiovascular diseases and before cancer.