Can You Really Smell Cancer?

by Philip Albert Edmonds-Hunt

Scientists now say that they have invented a machine which can smell cancer – the new “electronic nose” (an odor sniffing machine [e-nose]) that is on par with a mammogram, which can detect breast cancer. Does this mean that other “disease sniffers” may also be on the way?

It is said by many people, that an illness can actually be smelt – that is to say, diseases such as: anaerobic infections (the skin and sweat smells of rotten apples), bladder infections (the urine smells of ammonia [window cleaner]), diabetes (the breath smells of acetone-like [nail polish remover]), liver failure (the breath smells of raw fish), etc., and the list just goes on and on – with the smell of decay coming from an individual that is ill.

Previous to the new electronic nose that can smell-out decay within a person – scientists began to take note that certain people who had cancer, or who had come into contact with the same, noticed a kind of decay smell in the air (a prostate cancer sufferer’s wife once commented that her husband smelt like he was decaying).

As history teaches us – doctors have for many years smelt the breath (a very common sign of illness) of patients, together with urine and stool samples to help with certain diagnoses. Yellow fever is often said to smell like the odor found in a butcher’s shop, whereas typhoid often gives-off an odor of freshly baked brown bread.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (led by Mats J. Olsson) recently completed studies which confirmed a previously known link between illness and smell (studies were small, although significant). As part of the make-up of the metabolism of a person – certain smells are produced by the body and released into the air (smells that can be picked-up).

Cancer cells are also believed to release certain smells; although, many are too subtle for the human nose to smell (due to a different pattern of chemicals being emitted by a different metabolism). Humans have around 5-million scent receptors (dogs are gifted with over 300 million). Because of this, dogs have been trained with a 90% accuracy, to smell-out disease that would otherwise be impossible to smell by humans.

The newly invented “electronic odor sniffing machine” works with programmed sensors (hundreds of carbon nanotubes, each with a strand of DNA attached [strands are capable of transposing a mix of chemicals that are in the air into an electronic signal]) that can replicate how a human’s nose, and a dog’s nose works.

A recent study at the University of Konstanz in Germany (led by Martin Strauch) also indicated that “fruit flies” are capable of smelling-out cancer too(the scent of cancer samples tended to prompt a particular pattern of activity on the flies’ antennae [research continues to identify which receptors on the antennae were responsible in hope of being able to grow an antennae for use on an e-nose]).

Although electronic noses are at an early stage of development, it is believed in the future – if they can be used to detect diseases such as cancer at an early stage, significant progress could be made in the early curation of ill patients. It is also believed that such electronic noses could be used to monitor patient’s well-being, enabling doctors to help eradicate early symptoms of disease – making the once sci-fi movie technology – “one step closer to mankind.”

Philip is a Freelance Writer, Author, and Owner of Cancer Cry. He was born in Oxfordshire, England; however, today he lives in Mexico where he has been based for many years writing about cancer and other health related issues. If you would like to read more of his articles, check out his blogsite – http://www.cancercry.com Thank you for reading Philip’s articles!

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