Yes, your smart phones are fast becoming sophisticate laboratories. They can detect or sniff cancer and other diseases at anytime. It is reported, that centuries ago, doctors had to diagnose some diseases by smelling a patient’s breath as some diseases produce unique detectable “breathprints”. Scientists have now significant progress in developing breath analysis as an effective, inexpensive and non-invasive technology for medical diagnosis.

Smartphones, integrated with add-ons and apps are capable of improving our well-being. With the newest models being able to detect changes in things such as temperature, humidity, hand gestures or light, we are seeing a generation of sensors designed to do much more. But there is one thing these smartphones can now do, that is getting us all so fired up – They can perform accurate and immediate clinical diagnosis using breath analysis technology. This has far-reaching implications for healthcare delivery.

Leading this revolutionary space is the Sniffphone project based on the work of Prof. Hossam Haick. It is a mobile phone module that can analyze the user’s breath and detect up to 17 diseases. Several academic and industrial organizations are participating in the development of this project funded by Horizon 2020.

Hossam Haick with the SniffPhone system. Photo credit: Technion Spokesperson’s Office –

Technology Highlights

Sniffphone is an Israeli startup developing a device which connects to a smartphone and analyzes breath to alert patients of lung cancer biomarkers among other things.

  • The key innovation here is the Na-Nose that detects the presence of streptococci in the human breath, which can indicate the presence of several diseases like lung cancer, angina, meningitis, etc. Patients breathe into the device, the Na-Nose analyzes the hundreds of different gases contained in the breath to identify those that may indicate that something is wrong. Since these biomarkers (streptococci) are part of the normal human flora, their detection is combined with a chemical composition analysis of the breath through algorithms in the device. The Na-Nose diagnosis is almost infallible.
  • The device is trained to recognise several illnesses and how to discriminate between disease and confounding factors, such as contamination, age, gender, background disease and geography.

    The next step now has been directed at miniaturising the device enough to be able to bring it onto smartphones. With a breath collector that catches breath samples at a distance of 5-10 cm, to avoid contact between the mouth and the device, etc.

The Sniffphone device is cheaper than current cancer detection tools and enables accurate and non-invasive early diagnosis. There has been an increasing interest in recent years in improved methods for diagnosis. Effort has been directed at new methods which are expected to be non-invasive and inexpensive. Some interesting players we noted in the medical diagnostics innovation space include:

RealView Imaging employs its proprietary Digital Light Shaping™ technology to create a unique hyper-realistic experience for visualization of medical images, empowering clinicians with intuitive comprehension of complex 3D structures. According to their site, the HOLOSCOPE™ product line provides full color, high resolution, dynamic and interactive 3D images in free space from any medical 3D volumetric data.

PixCell Medical Technologies develops, produces, and markets portable medical diagnostic products for point of care testing. According to theri site, PixCell’s products are based on its innovative Viscoleastic Focusing (VEF) technology and single use cartridges that enable rapid, accurate and simple blood sampling and analysis. Results are displayed within minutes in an easily readable format.

In Situ Foundation has been dedicated to scientifically training dogs to detect early stage cancer in humans for over 12 years. According to their site, they are the leading experts in the field of training cancer detection dogs, and were among the first to participate in published research, setting the bar for future studies on the subject. Dina Zaphiris is the founder of In Situ Foundation.


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