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Highlights in Chemical Technology

Chemical technology news from across RSC Publishing.



Bioelectronic nose sniffs out odours


06 July 2006

Researchers in France have developed a bioelectronic nose that they hope will find applications in cancer diagnosis.

Electronic nose!

Jasmina Vidic and colleagues at the National Institute for Agronomic Research at Jouy-en-Josas are aiming to develop highly sensitive bioelectronic noses based on natural olfactory receptors (the cells in the nose that allow us to detect smells). To do this they needed to show that the receptors could function outside a living organism. Therefore, to keep the receptors in their natural lipid environment, Vidic and co-workers expressed them in yeast cells from which microspheres containing the olfactory receptors were created. The team attached the microspheres, also called nanosomes, to a chip to create the sensor.

Vidic assessed the sensitivity of the immobilised nanosomes by testing their response to different concentrations of various volatile chemicals. The results show that the selectivity and sensitivity of the natural cells are retained in the device.

"To keep the receptors in their natural lipid environment, Vidic and co-workers expressed them in yeast cells from which microspheres containing the olfactory receptors were created."

Vidic hopes to create a 'new nano-bioelectronic sensor based on olfactory receptors able to detect odorants in the urine of patients with prostate or bladder cancer.' Other possible applications include sensors for trace explosives or illegal drugs.

Current electronic nose devices find applications for quality control in the food, beverage and cosmetics industries and for detecting pollutants and gas leaks. They are based on metal oxide semiconductors or conducting polymers, and are usually expensive and require a large sample size. 

Boris Lakard from the University of France-Comté said that Vidic's biosensor could provide an alternative to these devices and 'be used to identify and monitor a spectrum of odorants in real time with a much higher selectivity and specificity than present electronic devices.'

Nicola Burton

References

J M Vidic, J Grosclaude, M-A Persuy, J Aioun, R Salesse and E Pajot-Augy, Lab Chip, 2006
DOI: 10.1039/b603189g