Dr Antonio Tricoli and PhD candidate Noushin Nasri. Photo by Stuart Hay.

Dr Antonio Tricoli and PhD candidate Noushin Nasri. Photo by Stuart Hay.

The mobile diagnoses revolution

There's an app for everything these days but Dr Antonio Tricoli and his team are on the quest to develop one that actually has practical uses - to diagnose lung cancer. By TEGAN KAHN, BMedSci (Hons) '09.

­­Smart phones are getting smarter by the minute.

They already help us plan transport routes, check the weather and take pictures.

What if they could also diagnose diabetes or lung cancer?

Dr Antonio Tricoli and his team at the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science are developing a technology to detect diseases by measuring markers in your breath - and it's small enough to fit in a mobile phone.

The implication for cheap, mobile, non-invasive diagnostics is potentially revolutionary. 

"If you are able to detect lung cancer at a very early stage, the chances of recovering are much higher," Tricoli says.

"This solid-state technology is small enough to fit in a phone so it could be for personal use, or a bigger device could be used in pharmacies."

Working at the interface of biology and engineering, Tricoli and his team are using the National Computational Infrastructure's supercomputer to design a mobile sensor made of billions of interconnected nanoparticles.

"Your breath actually contains more than 10,000 compounds, which can tell us about what you've been eating, how much, and whether you might have an undiagnosed medical condition," Tricoli says.