Detecting Biomarkers for Cancer
Tonya B. Lewis, (254) 710-4656, or the Office of Media Communications at (254) 710-1961
Baylor University chemist Dr. Touradj Solouki is attempting to identify biomarkers in human breath and saliva for early and noninvasive detection of cancer. He uses an ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometer to collect data and compares the molecular components found in a healthy person's breath with those found in the breath of a cancer patient.
Solouki and his team separate the molecules that make up the components of human exhaled breath, by forcing them to sort into similar groups as they travel through hundreds of feet of fine tubing. A coating on the inside of the tube affects the movements of each type of molecule in a different way, causing them to segregate. It discards carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen and saves just the organics. The molecules are then cooled by liquid nitrogen, ionized and fed into a magnetic field. The ionized molecules are trapped and their motion is further restricted using a combination of a magnetic field and electrical field. These trapped ionized molecules are identified according to the specific natural cyclotron frequencies at which they spin.