Researchers have developed an electronic nose, called e-nose, that may be capable of diagnosing pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) by “sniffing” it on a person’s breath. A large study evaluating the e-nose’s ability to detect PAH is now recruiting both patients and healthy individuals to serve as controls.
The PAH e-nose is the result of a partnership between Université Paris-Saclay in France and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Israel. In its original form, the e-nose was used to detect cancer. It now has been adapted for the early detection of PAH, a rare form of high blood pressure in the lungs.
Common symptoms of PAH include shortness of breath, dizziness, and chest pain — symptoms that can be mistaken for other illnesses, delaying a proper PAH diagnosis. In these patients, the pulmonary arteries that transport blood from the heart to the lungs are narrowed or blocked, compromising the blood flow and increasing lung blood pressure, and eventually causing right-sided heart failure.
The artificial nose is a small, breath-diagnostic array based on flexible gold-nanoparticle sensors, that can ‘smell’ PAH on an individual’s breath, because the disease alters the breath’s signature by changing the profile of volatile organic compounds in exhaled air.
“The gold standard for the diagnosis of PAH is right heart catheterism, which can make the right diagnosis, but it is invasive, risky and unsuitable for widespread screening,” Dr. Sylvia Cohen-Kaminsky, at Université Paris-Saclay, said in a press release. “The e-nose is a non-invasive and safe detection method that means general screening of PAH could eventually be made available.”
The project started when a team at Technion, led by Professor Hossam Haick, invented the e-nose to diagnose cancer. When Cohen-Kaminsky heard about the e-nose, she contacted Haick to expand his technology to also detect PAH, a disease with similar characteristics to cancer. The PAH e-nose has shown its effectiveness in proof-of-concept studies, and is now being tested in a trial underway in France that intends to enroll 350 people.
That clinical validation trial, called SNOOPY2 (NCT02782026), is currently recruiting both PAH patients and healthy adults at its site near Paris. Professor Marc Humbert, a pulmonary hypertension specialist at Université Paris-Sud, is leading the study. More information, including enrollment information, is available via its clinical trials.gov website.