Smelling diseases? A short review on electronic noses

Klinik für Innere Medizin, Schwerpunkt Pneumologie, Philipps-Universität Marburg.
Pneumologie 03/2011; 65(7):401-5. DOI: 10.1055/s-0030-1256252
Source: PubMed


Non-invasive pulmonary diagnostics is a promising and interesting field in respiratory medicine. Beside exhaled breath condensate, there is an increasing interest in alternative and faster techniques such as electronic noses (EN). EN aim to mimic or improve the sense of smelling. Different types of EN have been employed in research so far. In addition to ion mobility spectrometry and mass spectrometry, ENs that consist of various biopolymer sensors for the sensing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have been tested. VOCs bind to the sensors depending on size, structure, hydrogen binding and polarity. This leads to physical alterations, e. g., swelling resulting in a change of resistance. The smell print represents composite patterns in contrast to single compounds, and the distinction between different categories is achieved by pattern recognition algorithms. Other types of EN like mass spectrometry and ion mobility spectrometry are capable of identifying even single analyte fractions provided that their characteristics have been saved in data repositories. The non-invasive nature, onsite availability and relatively cheap sampling are advantages of ENs that underly the increasing interest in their use for medical purposes. Some promising results have already been published. This review aims to describe the state of the art in brief form.

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