by Brendon Nafziger
, DOTmed News Associate Editor | October 21, 2009
"The advantage of this method is [that] the concentration of the exhaled xenon is much higher than the concentration of the xenon dissolved in the body, and therefore provides a much larger signal," Graziani explains. "Furthermore, since the sample is in the gas phase, the concentration of xenon can be increased dramatically by either compressing the gas or liquefying it, further increasing the strength of the signal."
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Clinical applications are some years away, according to Graziani. For their experiments, the Berkeley team didn't use living subjects, but rather a mechanical set-up meant to mimic human respiration, with membranes to act as lungs and flowing water to act as circulating blood delivering the xenon to different parts of the body.
Graziani says after these proof-of-concept studies, the real challenge is signal enhancement. "We are currently testing a second-generation design in which we compress the extracted gas before detection to see how far we can push the sensitivity gains," he says.
As for its true value in the field, it all depends on the xenon biosensor. Right now, Pines' lab is in the planning stages on animal studies to see how effective they are in real-world situations. If those go well, they could move to Hyper-SAGE animal models in a few years. But actual "point-of-care diagnostics is a much longer-term goal," Graziani cautions. "It would require the miniaturization of many of the components involved in the experiment."
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