The first microprocessor is almost 50 years old, but microprocessors (MPUs) continue to revolutionize new areas. (First MPU = Intel 4004, in 1971, which Intel designed for a calculator company!) In concert with Moore’s Law and now ubiquitous wireless two-way wireless data transmission (thanks, Qualcomm!). smartphones have become a basic building block of many products.
A companion to explain what’s in your air, anywhere. Flow is the intelligent device that fits into your daily life and helps you make the best air quality choices for yourself, your family, your community.
Source: Flow, by Plume Labs | The First Smart Air Quality Tracker
Here is a quick review I wrote of the “Flow” pollution meter, after using it for a few months. I wrote it as a comment on a blog post by Meredith Fowlie about monitoring the effects of fires in N. California.
Sniffing disease markers is a fundamentally promising concept. We know that dogs have very good smell, so that is an existence proof that something interesting can be detected in the air. (In my family’s experience, human smell can also become amazingly good, at least for pregnant women!) In fact, if B.F. Skinner were still alive, I wonder if he would be training pigeons to sniff out disease?
But although air is feasible, it does seem like blood is a better choice because it is likely to have stronger signals and lower noise. Air-based sensors would be non-invasive, so perhaps that is why some groups are pursuing air.
…a team of researchers from the ..Monell Chemical Senses Center and the University of Pennsylvania [are working] on a prototype odor sensor that detects ovarian cancer in samples of blood plasma.
The team chose plasma because it is somewhat less likely than breath or urine to be corrupted by confounding factors like diet or environmental chemicals, including cleaning products or pollution. Instead of ligands, their sensors rely on snippets of single-strand DNA to do the work of latching onto odor particles.
“We are trying to make the device work the way we understand mammalian olfaction works,” … “DNA gives unique characteristics for this process.”
Judging by research at UCSD and elsewhere, I envision tests like this eventually be run as add-on modules to smartphones. Buy a module for $100 (single molecule, home use) up to $5000 (multiple molecules, ambulance use), and plug it into your phone. Above $5000, you will probably use a dedicated electronics package. But that package might be based on Android OS.
This is also another example of Big Data science. It could be done before, but it will be a lot easier now. Blood collected for other purposes from “known sick” patients could be used to create a 50,000 person training set. (The biggest problem might be getting informed consent.)