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Scientists have created a graphene-based sensor that could lead to earlier detection of looming asthma attacks and improve the management of asthma and other respiratory diseases, preventing hospitalizations and deaths. The sensor paves the way for the development of wearable devices that indicate when and at what dosage of medication to take.

The miniaturized electrochemical sensor accurately measures nitrite in exhaled breath condensate using reduced graphene oxide. Reduced graphene oxide resists corrosion, has superior electrical properties, and is very accurate in detecting biomarkers. Graphene is a thin layer of the graphite used in pencils.

“Nitrite level in breath condensate is a promising biomarker for inflammation in the respiratory tract. Having a rapid, easy method to measure it can help an asthmatic determine if air pollutants are affecting them so they can better manage use of medication and physical activity,” says Clifford Weisel, study co-author and professor at Rutgers’ Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI).

The next step is to develop a portable, wearable system, which could be commercially available within five years. The researchers also envision expanding the number of inflammation biomarkers a device could detect and measure.

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