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Health & Medicine Human Skin Cells Odor Can Be Used To Identify Melanoma

Human Skin Cells Odor Can Be Used To Identify Melanoma

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First Posted: Jun 14, 2013 07:03 AM EDT
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According to a new study published in the Journal of Chromatography B, melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, can be identified based on odors from human skin cells.

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Apart from identifying the unique odor linked to melanoma cells, researchers from the Monell Center and collaborating institutions have shown that they can differentiate between melanoma and normal skin cells using a nanotechnology-based sensor.

This non-invasive technique can be used to detect and diagnose melanoma in its early stages.

Till date, visual inspection of the skin was the technique used to detect melanoma, which is a tumor damaging melanocytes, skin cells that produce dark pigments.

The human skin produces several airborne chemical molecules called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and many of them have odor. The new study took benefit of this fact.

With the help of sampling and analytical technique, the researchers identified VOCs from melanoma cells at three stages of the disease. The cells were grown in culture. And they used an absorbent device to get a sample of the air present in the containers that had various types of cells. They analyzed the compounds with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques and noticed various shapes of VOCs that were being emitted from melanoma cells.

Certain compounds produced by melanoma were not seen in VOC of normal melanocytes. With a nano-sensor that was previously described, the researchers examined VOCS of normal melanocytes as well as melanoma cells.

"We are excited to see that the DNA-carbon nanotube vapor sensor concept has potential for use as a diagnostic. Our plan is to move forward with research into skin cancer and other diseases," said A.T. Charlie Johnson, PhD, Professor of Physics at the University of Pennsylvania, who led the development of the olfactory sensor.

"This study demonstrates the usefulness of examining VOCs from diseases for rapid and noninvasive diagnostic purposes," said George Preti, PhD, an organic chemist at Monell, one of the paper's senior authors. "The methodology should also allow us to differentiate stages of the disease process."

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