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‘NASA nose’ potent new weapon against brain cancer


Washington : An electronic ‘nose’ developed by NASA for air quality monitoring on Space Shuttle Endeavour can also act as a potent new weapon against brain cancer.

The ‘nose’ can detect odour differences in normal and cancerous brain cells, opening up new possibilities for neurosurgeons in the fight against the condition.

Neurosurgeons from the City of Hope Cancer Centre, along with scientists from the Brain Mapping Foundation (BMF) in West Hollywood and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), used NASA’s electronic ‘nose’ to investigate the role of cellular odour in cellular trafficking, brain cancer metastasis and stem cell migration.

The ‘electronic nose’, which is to be installed on the International Space Station to automatically monitor the station’s air, can detect different contaminants, some with concentrations as low as one part per million.

In a series of experiments, the BMF used NASA’s electronic nose to sniff brain cancer cells and cells in other organs. These experiments will help pave the way for more sophisticated biochemical analysis and experimentation, said a NASA release.

Babak Kateb, study co-author said: “This pilot study lays the groundwork for future research that may help us better understand cellular trafficking, contribute to designing better approaches for the detection and differentiation of brain cancer, and understand the pathophysiology of intracranial gliomas.”

The results will be presented at the sixth Annual World Congress for Brain Mapping & Image Guided Therapy at Harvard Medical School, Aug 26-29.