In this interview, Prof. Pelagia-Irene Gouma talks to AZoSensors about her work on a novel nano-sensor based asthma monitoring device.
Can you explain what the asthma monitor is made up of and how this is related to its function?
The proposed asthma monitor consists of a nanosensor microsystem that captures the amount of nitric oxide (NO) present in a single exhale and displays its concentration within seconds.
There is a pressure to transform healthcare from reactive and hospital-centered to a more personalised process to focus on the wellbeing of the patient. How will the new asthma monitor help address this issue?
This handheld, portable, inexpensive device is expected to be a revolutionary personalized medicine tool to be purchased by the individual over the counter, thus enabling better health, safe and early detection and/or reliable control of an airway disease such as asthma, in a non-invasive way and in the home or office setting.
How will the Type 1: Exploratory Project address processes used to promote smart health?
This is a proof of principle type of project where the investigators have to demonstrate that the proposed technology has the potential to become a reliable diagnostic tool by developing and testing a prototype device.
In your recent press release, you state that this research will allow for the “leap from breath-gas testing devices to actual breath-test diagnostics for asthma and other airway diseases”. How does this novel personalised monitoring device compare to traditional breath-testing methods for the diagnosis and management of asthma? What are the advantages of this new asthma monitor?
Currently there are only bulky, expensive, and doctor’s office or hospital based NO-detectors for the diagnosis and monitoring of asthma. There is no comparison between existing technologies and ours as the latter offers portability, simplicity, affordability and ease of use. The National Science Foundation funding will help us evaluate the reliability of our technology too.
Can you describe the nanotechnologies used for such non-invasive, nitric oxide breath diagnostic devices?
There are specific phases of metal oxides that show high affinity for NO. These are the ones that we have demonstrated before to detect NO at the 100s ppb concentration levels. This project aims at bringing the sensitivity limit to single ppb levels by the use of single crystal nanowires of high aspect ratio.
Are there any competing technologies for monitoring respiratory conditions?
As mentioned above, there is no comparison between existing technologies and ours. Chemiluminescence-based and electrochemical sensors are some of the technologies currently employed to detect asthma. Our approach is based on resistive chemosensing utilizing polymorphic metal oxides.
Who is this device especially suitable for?
The most vulnerable population, such as children and the elderly.
What are the benefits of using this personalised medicine for the patients and their quality of life?
Safe testing, ease of testing, no need to be tested at a hospital or a doctor’s office, take medication only as needed, non-invasive testing and monitoring.
How will a personalised goal for treatment of asthma by using this monitor improve the patient’s asthma and management of the asthma?
There are guidelines that relate the amount of NO in exhaled breath to the presence and type of airway disease and getting a reliable and quantitative measurement of NO concentration is very important to asthma detection and monitoring.
How will application of the personalised asthma monitor affect physicians and their goals for the management of patients with asthma?
It will help physicians immensely as it will give them an accurate picture of the history of the patient based on the variations of the NO in his/her breath over time; it will help physicians prescribe the appropriate treatment; to calculate the needed dose of medication more accurately; direct patient to the appropriate specialist as needed.
What are the future challenges ahead for this personalized asthma monitor in terms of design and functionality?
The major challenge is to achieve the required sensor sensitivity without losing the gas selectivity and while maintaining the single breath sampling.
Apart from asthma, what other respiratory conditions will benefit from application of such technology?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is an important condition that can be monitored, among others.
About Pelagia-Irene Gouma
Dr. Gouma is a tenured Professor in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering at the State University of New York (SUNY) Stony Brook. She is also the Director of the Center for Nanomaterials and Sensor Development.
Her research focuses on selective chemical detectors, biosensors and hybrid nanoprobes for electronic olfaction systems and nanomedicine applications. Dr. Gouma is a Fulbright Scholar. She holds several Visiting Faculty positions and has been a Visiting Scientist with NIMS (Japan), Univ. of Brescia (Italy) and guest faculty at Lawrence Berkeley and Brookhaven National laboratories.
Having several patents granted and many more pending and over 90 peer-reviewed publications, she serves as an Associate Editor for JACERS and on the editorial board of Nanomedicine and Sensor Letters journals.
Dr. Gouma holds a B.S. degree in Applied Physics from the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, Greece, an M.S. in “Advanced Engineering Materials” and an M. Phil. in “Organizational Management”, both from the University of Liverpool (UK), and a Ph.D. in Materials Science & Engineering from the University of Birmingham (UK).
Prior to joining SUNY Stony Brook, she was a Research Scientist at Ohio State University.
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