Non-invasive screening tests for preventive healthcare

Multidisciplinary science collaboration on detection of veterinary diseases such as dogs’ mammary cancer from urine samples

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The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Helsinki, the WiseNose association, Aqsens Health Oy, and the University of Eastern Finland have started a collaborative research project to detect and diagnose diseases from urine. The first tests will focus on detection of mammary cancer from the dog’s urine. The parties are expecting to publish first results in autumn 2019. 

Today dogs are considered excellent reference models for human diseases. The DogRisk research group at the University of Helsinki are doing epidemiological, diagnostic, and clinical research on diseases that humans and dogs have in common; osteoarthritis, cancer, atopy/allergy, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), epilepsy, age related cognitive dysfunctions etc. They use a multitude of “omics” techniques to find the reasons behind the diseases, they use nutrition and nutraceuticals to treat diseases and disease sniffing dogs to diagnose. “We are thrilled to combine our multi-disciplinary metabolomics know-how and the cancer scent dog project with a very promising new health tech method,” says research leader Anna Hielm-Björkman, from the University of Helsinki. “ Aqsens Health has developed a non-invasive screening and diagnosis method (E-TRF) to analyse saliva, urine and microbiota, and tiny changes therein. “Even though our focus is on mass screening of national diseases, we are thrilled with this cross science collaboration opportunity. By combining the sensitivity of cancer smelling dogs, the latest analytical chemistry capabilities and veterinary clinical expertise we can reach new possibilities,” says Aqsens Health CEO Timo Teimonen. The Wisenose association has developed systematic processes and best practices to train dogs to smell a variety of diseases. “We have conducted thousands of smelling tests against clinically validated diagnoses and we just opened a new training facility to further improve quality and to deepen our scientific basis and pedagogy for the training,” says Managing Director Susanna Paavilainen. This collaboration will further help us to understand how dogs can be used for the benefit of health diagnostics by giving new directions for the research work. 

Professor Jouko Vepsäläinen at University of Eastern Finland has been involved into DogRisk research work for several years back. “Every time there has been need to compare the performance of cancer scenting dogs to the new technology or to more traditional scent or molecule detection, we have been there for the project, We have performed several experiments and even spiked urine of healthy people with the molecule cocktails that we find interesting, and then presented them to the dogs for detection” he laughs. Together with the University of Helsinki we have validated the scent detection dogs, tested the minimum concentrations dogs are able to react on, and analyzed all the same samples using both mass spectrometry (MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR)

In the project parties will use the same sample material (urine) but different methods (E-TRF, cancer smelling dogs and MS / NMR) and comparisons to clinical diagnosis to classify healthy, tumors and cancerous samples. Learnings are openly shared between the parties and based on the discoveries new analysis will be performed. The aim of this open collaboration is to enhance the understanding of indicators for diseases like mammary/breast cancer and to possibly to discover new solutions and methods that can be utilised by healthcare professionals for the benefit of the society. 

More information: 

Aqsens Health, Timo Teimonen (+358 40 585 3105) Wisenose Association, Susanna Paavilainen (+358 44 504 4464) University of Helsinki, Anna Hielm-Björkman (+358 44 3270462) University of Eastern Finland, Jouko Vepsäläinen (+358 40 355 3256) 

About Aqsens Health 

Aqsens Health has developed a non-invasive screening and diagnosis method (E-TRF and Machine Learning) to analyse microbiota, urine and saliva, and very small-scale metabolic changes therein. The company’s focus is on non-invasive screening of health disorders having major impact for both individual patients and society.