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Electronic Nose May Sniff Out Early Kidney Disease

Scientists may have discovered an ingenious way to detect chronic renal failure (CRF) at its earliest and most treatable stages. The method would involve the electronic detection of volatile molecules found in the breath of those with developing kidney disease, but not in the breath of those without kidney disease. The promise of this approach was supported by experiments in rats where an “electronic nose” was used to detect 27 volatile organic compounds that appear in the breath of rats with no kidney function, but not in the breath of rats with normal kidney function. The “electronic nose” is based on a technology in which a semi-conductive random network of single-walled carbon nanotubes and insulating nonpolymeric organic materials provides arrays of chemically sensitive resistive vapor detectors. The results presented in this study raise expectations for future capabilities for diagnosis, detection, and screening various stages of kidney disease, the researchers said, noting that the tests could detect patients with early disease, when it is possible to control blood pressure and protein intake to slow disease progression. The researchers pointed out that the blood and urine tests now used to diagnose CRF can be inaccurate and may come out "normal" even when patients have lost 75 percent of their kidney function. The most reliable test, a kidney biopsy, is invasive and may result in infections and bleeding. Doctors have long hoped for better tests for early detection of kidney disease. The current research was reported in the May 26 issue of the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano. [ACS Nano abstract]