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Artificial intelligence could be the key to detecting diabetes and cancer early

It could forever change the world of medicine, and potentially save lives. Researchers at North Dakota State University are using artificial intelligence to detect things like diabetes and cancer much earlier. We find out how it works, and explain when this emerging technology could be in the hands of patients.

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From left to right: Danling Wang, Ph. D., Sampada Koirala, Mahek Sadiq, and Aaron Kishlock.
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FARGO — Imagine being able to diagnose diabetes from your own home. That is just a taste of the cutting-edge tech being worked on at a lab at North Dakota State University.

Through nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, students are creating an affordable device a person could breathe into to detect diabetes.

"(Patients would) not necessary (need) to go to the clinic," said Assistant Professor Danling Wang. "(The home tests) save money and time."

Utilizing a four-year, $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Wang and her team of PhD students are cutting the boards to make prototypes of this technology. The AI is being worked on through a collaboration with a few other universities.

"At the end of the four years, I assume we can get a commercialized device and the function of the A.I., make smart detection for the users or patient," Wang explained.

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The students are applying the same tech to get a read on other diseases. Mahek Sadiq, a student working on her PhD in biomedical engineering, said this can be used to detect types of cancer much earlier. They are still testing with blood samples from rats.

"We can easily see if that sample has cancer in it or not," Sadiq said. "So I think it has a really good future."

She used pancreatic cancer as an example, and said it is usually diagnosed in Stage 3. This technology can detect it as early as Stage 1. They are also developing the device to fit into a small, portable box.

There is also an agricultural use in getting the technology to detect the early stages of disease in plants, helping with crops across the world.

"To help farmers, we will be creating these sensing devices," Sampada Koirala said, a PhD student studying Biomedical Engineering. "Our goal is to create that kind of a sensing device that's cheaper, convenient."

Professor Wang says the AI component is crucial. For the diabetes detection portion, she says they may soon do clinical testing with Sanford Health and Altru Health some time in the next few years.

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