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Breathalyzer test to detect lung cancer

Researchers have developed a breathalyzer test that could help detect cancer.

The device developed by Prof Nir Peled of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Prof Hossam Haick (inventor) of the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology, and Prof Fred Hirsch of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, is embedded with a “NaNose” nanotech chip to literally “sniff out” cancer tumours.

The study, presented at a recent American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago, was conducted on 358 patients who were either diagnosed with or at risk for lung cancer.

Dr Peled said lung cancer is a devastating disease, responsible for almost 2,000 deaths in Israel annually - a third of all cancer-related deaths.

He said “ Our new device combines several novel technologies with a new concept — using exhaled breath as a medium of diagnosing cancer.

” Dr Peled said their NaNose was able to detect lung cancer with 90 percent accuracy even when the lung nodule was tiny and hard to sample. It was even able to discriminate between subtypes of cancer, which was unexpected.

“Cancer cells not only have a different and unique smell or signature, you can even discriminate between subtypes and advancement of the disease,” said Dr Peled. “The bigger the tumour, the more robust the signature.”

The device and subsequent analysis accurately sorted healthy people from people with early-stage lung cancer 85 per cent of the time, and healthy people from those with advanced lung cancer 82 per cent of the time.

The test also accurately distinguished between early and advanced lung cancer 79 per cent of the time.

The Boston-based company Alpha Szenszor has licensed the technology and hopes to introduce it to the market within the next few years.

Gene mutations may help develop new drugs

Researchers have shown that people with variation in a gene that inhibits a specific protein in the blood – apolipoprotein C3 – have a significantly lower level of normal blood lipids than people without this gene variation.

Furthermore, the same individuals also have a 41 per cent lower risk of arteriosclerosis. The research is highly relevant as at least one pharmaceutical company has a drug in the pipeline which inhibits precisely apolipoprotein C3, says Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen, Chief Physician at Rigshospitalet and Clinical Professor at the Faculty of Health and  Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

The scientific results are based on two of the world’s largest population studies, the Copenhagen City Heart Study and the Copenhagen General Population Study, with a total 75,725 participants who were followed for 34 years.

By using genetic studies that mimic medical inhibition of apolipoprotein C3, we have demonstrated that the protein plays an important role in lowering the level of normal blood lipids and thus the risk of cardiovascular disease.

People with lifelong hereditary inhibition of the protein have very low blood lipid levels (less than 1 mmol per litre of blood) as well as a significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, says Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen.

Drug-resistant bacteria’s ‘Achilles heel’ discovered


Researchers at the University of East Anglia have claimed to have discovered an Achilles’ heel in the defensive barrier which surrounds drug-resistant bacterial cells.

The findings pave the way for a new wave of drugs that kill superbugs by bringing down their defensive walls rather than attacking the bacteria itself.

It means that in future, bacteria may not develop drug-resistance at all.

Researchers investigated a class of bacteria called ‘Gram-negative bacteria’ which is particularly resistant to antibiotics because of its cells’ impermeable lipid-based outer membrane.

This outer membrane acts as a defensive barrier against attacks from the human immune system and antibiotic drugs. It allows the pathogenic bacteria to survive, but removing this barrier causes the bacteria to become more vulnerable and die.

The new findings reveal how bacterial cells transport the barrier building blocks (called lipopolysaccharides) to the outer surface.

Group leader Prof Changjiang Dong, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We have identified the path and gate used by the bacteria to transport the barrier building blocks to the outer surface. Importantly, we have demonstrated that the bacteria would die if the gate is locked.”

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