Metabolites are compounds of low molecular weight that are involved in various cell metabolism functions. These small molecules cannot be seen or detected directly. Instead, you need measuring devices, such as mass spectrometers, which create signals for subsequent analysis.
A mass spectrometer used for the detection of organic matter generally needs some ten billion molecules before anything shows in the reading. A dog can smell out a disease from a much smaller number. In a test conducted at the University of Eastern Finland, a dog only needed a sample with ten molecules.
A multidisciplinary research project was started between the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Wise Nose, Aqsens Health Ltd. and the University of Eastern Finland. First, the dogs are trained to identify signs of canine mammary tumours from urine samples. According to tests, sniffer dogs’ results were good, with cancer detection of almost 100 per cent. This method will now be extended to detecting prostate and breast cancer.