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October 7th, 2012

NSF funding could make ceramic-based disease-monitoring breathalyzers a reality

Published on October 7th, 2012 | By: Eileen De Guire

One day soon, this circuit board could be a handheld breathalyzer. Credit: Gouma; SUNT Stony Brook.

Perena Gouma‘s dream of developing breathalyzers for noninvasive health monitoring is on the path to becoming reality thanks to an award from the NSF to develop a “personalized asthma monitor.” Gouma is professor of materials science and engineering at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.

In an article in the September issue of the Bulletin, Gouma described the work her group is doing to develop single crystal metal oxide nanowires that are selective for exhaled gas compound disease markers. The gas marker for asthma is FeNO, and the goal of this project is to develop a NO-sensitive breathalyzer that can detect levels in the ppb range. The eventual goal of this research is to develop a “low-power autonomous system-on-a-chip” in a handheld unit.

The funding comes through NSF’s Smart Health and Wellbeing Program, whose goal, according to a university press release, is to transform the reactive, hospital-centric health care model to a proactive, preventative, individual-centered wellness model. The grant is a “Type I: Exploratory Project,” so the idea is to provide proof-of-concept and feasibility of the breathalyzer technology.

Working with her on the project are Sanford Simon, professor of biochemistry, cell biology and pathology, and Milutin Stanacevic, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

It the press release, Gouma says the grant “will enable us to make the leap from breath-gas testing devices to actual breath-test diagnostics for asthma and other airway diseases.” She expects the device will be welcomed by those who are less able to take proactive control of their health care. “The device will be especially suitable for use by a wide range of compromised indivuduals, such as the elderly, young children and otherwise incapacitated patients,” predicts Gouma.

The three-year, $599,763 award runs through Aug. 31, 2015. The project title is “Personalized Asthma Monitor Detecting Nitric Oxide in Breath.”


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