Breath testing… for disease!

Tue 15 September 2015

Breath testing… for disease!
Breath testing… for disease!

Imagine the possibility of testing for a disease using just a single puff of breath… sounds almost like science fiction, but this is the subject of PhD student Noushin Nasiri’s research that she will be presenting at the ANU Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Grand Final.

Noushin has spent the last few years developing fingerprint sized biosensors which are covered in nanoparticles. These sensors when used to analyse breath are able to pick up differences in concentrations in certain compounds which can be used to test for disease.

With the differences in concentration of these compounds being so low, detecting them is a challenge: “it is similar to finding a drop of blood in an Olympic sized swimming pool” she explains. Noushin hopes that in the near future these sensors will be able to detect diseases such as lung cancer, diabetes, breast cancer and schizophrenia.

While it seems that her research is going from strength to strength, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing: “I spend at least two months preparing, stabilising and testing each sensor. Once, one of the newest sensors fell on the floor while I was placing it into the sensor chamber. This ruined at least two months’ work and I had to repeat the steps all over again”.

Noushin is very positive about her whole 3MT journey, for her, “the fact that you have to explain your three years’ work in just three minutes in a way that everybody can understand is incredible”. She stresses the importance of communication in all forms of research and she sees the competition as a great opportunity to get her research “out of the laboratory and into the real world”.

She feels quite fortunate to be working in an area which has such a direct benefit to people’s lives and it is her aim to continue pursuing a career in research which “helps people to live healthier and longer”.

When asked how she characterises her own research experience so far, she replies confidently with “damn hard work”, and it certainly looks as if this hard work is starting to pay off.

Noushin Nasiri will be competing in the ANU 3MT Grand Final held this Wednesday 16 September.

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