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Researchers Win NSF Award for Asthma Breath Analyzer

Researchers asthma
From left to right: Sanford Simon, Perena Gouma and Milutin Stanacevic

An interdisciplinary team of Stony Brook University researchers has been selected to receive a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) award for the development of a personalized asthma monitor that uses nanotechnology to detect known airway inflammation biomarkers in the breath. The project, “Personalized Asthma Monitor Detecting Nitric Oxide in Breath,” comes with a $599,763 award funded through August 31, 2015.

The researchers, led by Perena Gouma, PhD, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the Center for Nanomaterials and Sensor Development at Stony Brook, and her research collaborators, Milutin Stanacevic, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Sanford Simon, PhD, a professor in the departments of Biochemistry and Cell Biology and Pathology, are developing a nanosensor-based microsystem that captures, quantifies and displays an accurate measure of the nitric oxide concentration in a single-exhaled breath.

Through the Smart Health and Wellbeing Program under which this grant was issued, the NSF seeks to address fundamental technical and scientific issues that support much needed transformation of healthcare from reactive and hospital-centered to preventive, proactive, evidence-based, person-centered and focused on wellbeing rather than disease. This is a Type I: Exploratory Project, which means that it will investigate the proof-of-concept or feasibility of a novel technology, including processes and approaches that promote smart health and wellbeing.

“We are very excited about the NSF’s support of our research, which will enable us to make the leap from breath-gas testing devices to actual breath-test diagnostics for asthma and other airway diseases,” said Gouma. “Our team brings together multidisciplinary expertise that spans the science, engineering and medical fields and aims to use the latest nanotechnologies to provide the public with affordable, personalized, non-invasive, nitric oxide breath diagnostic devices.”

According to Gouma, the technology studied in this project provides an effective and practical means to quantitate nitric oxide levels in breath in a relatively simple and noninvasive way — detecting fractional exhaled nitric oxide, a known biomarker for measuring airway inflammation. “The device will be especially suitable for use by a wide range of compromised individuals, such as the elderly, young children and otherwise incapacitated patients,” she added.

Since 2002 Gouma has received funding from the NSF to develop sensor nanotechnologies for medical applications. In 2003 she received an NSF NIRT (Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team) award, which helped to establish the Center for Nanomaterials and Sensor Development. Gouma’s research has been featured by the NSF Science Nation and has been widely publicized in the media, including Fox News’ Sunday Housecall, Scientific American, Personalized Medicine, Women’s Health and more. She is a Fulbright scholar and serves as an associate editor for IEEE Sensors Journal and the Journal of the American Ceramic Society.

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