An electronic nose that ‘smells’ harmful chemicals in urine could identify pregnant women most at risk of the dangerous condition pre-eclampsia.

A handheld, small-sized walkie talkie device detects certain aromas associated with the condition and alerts you before the symptoms become apparent.

Scientists hope this experimental device will allow doctors to regularly check for pre-eclampsia in women, which could save their lives.

High-risk women can be closely monitored throughout pregnancy to reduce the risk.

Pre-eclampsia can affect up to 20% of pregnancies across the UK. It occurs when the blood vessels within the placenta that provide nutrients and oxygen to the baby do not properly form.

The handheld, walkie-talkie sized device picks out the aroma of certain proteins linked with the condition before symptoms even appear

This handheld device, sized at a walkie-talkie size, detects the scent of proteins associated with certain conditions before any symptoms appear

This can drive up a woman’s blood pressure and reduce the amount of oxygen and nutrients reaching the baby.

The stressed placenta then releases toxins that damage babies’ organs such as the liver, kidneys, lungs and brain — increasing the risk of them dying in the womb, or being born prematurely. The condition causes approximately 1,000 deaths per year among UK babies and women.

Once detected those with pre-eclampsia must be monitored closely — some may be treated with drugs to bring down blood pressure — but giving birth, typically on a planned date by a caesarean section is the only way to ‘cure’ the condition.

The difficulty is diagnosing the condition to implement such measures: in the early stages pre-eclampsia is ‘silent’ — causing no symptoms.

Most cases can be detected at four-months of gestation through routine urine and blood pressure checks.

It measures protein levels such as albumin. This is a measure of the health and function of your blood. Excess levels suggests the protein is ‘leaking’ from the bloodstream because of abnormal blood flow to the placenta.

An electronic nose can detect pre-eclampsia weeks ahead of current testing.

Researchers from the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, studied 89 pregnant women and compared those already diagnosed with pre-eclampsia with pregnant women who only had risk factors for it, such as obesity, their age (it’s more common in those in their 40s) or having had it in previous pregnancies.

The women gave regular urine samples which were tested using the £6,000 portable electronic nose, called Cyranose. An aerial is protruding at the top of the gadget, with a tiny sensor in the tip.

An aerial is placed just a few centimetres above your urine sample. Then, it analyses the vapours that come off the device and provides a reading on the levels of protein. Using just a few drops of urine, the ‘nose’ was able to detect even slightly raised levels of harmful proteins.

The research, published in the journal Archives of Medical Research, found there were significantly raised levels of proteins in women in the latter stages of pregnancy who’d already been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.

It also revealed that over a third had already increased their protein levels even though they were in the early stages (around 14 weeks) of their pregnancy and showed no sign of pre-eclampsia such as high blood pressure.

Commenting on the device, Professor Ronnie Lamont, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at BMI Chiltern Hospital in Buckinghamshire, said: ‘This technology has the potential to save lives — I’ve seen both mothers and babies die from pre-eclampsia.

‘If the electronic nose can detect signs of it as early as 13 or 14 weeks, it means those women could be monitored much more closely.’

A new way to deal with bugs that are resistant to antibiotics

A ‘new’ molecule that sticks to bacteria is being investigated as an alternative to antibiotics.

To build cell walls, infection-causing bacteria depend on lipid II. Researchers have now shown that THCz, another recently discovered molecule, can bind to lipid II and stop the formation of cell walls. It also stops bacteria from replicating.

The THCz has been demonstrated to kill some resistant strains of bacteria such as MRSA. 

Anxiety and depression have been again linked to inactivity.

Researchers analysed data from more than 3,000 people who tracked their activity levels and mental well-being during the pandemic — those who reduced their exercise, as a result of staying inside more were more likely to feel anxious and depressed, according to the journal Frontiers In Psychiatry.

You can reduce your carb intake to control diabetes

According to an analysis, patients suffering from type 2 diabetes and those who are obese or overweight can now eat lower carbohydrate meals for as long as six months.

Low-carb diets are increasingly popular, and the review based on an analysis of nine studies by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (which advises the Government on nutrition and health), found that going lower-carb helped to regulate patients’ blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reports the British Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers advised people to consult their doctor before they attempt lower-carbohydrate diets.

Watch your clock

Learn how to harness your body’s power. Get active at 5pm this week

Doing late afternoon and evening exercise sessions helps build more muscle — important for strength, mobility and balance — than exercising at other times of the day, research suggests.

It is believed that the body clock controls fluctuations in hormone levels which can affect muscle building. The hormones are also involved in protein synthesis. This is the process of making protein that can be used to grow and repair muscle.

According to one study, exercising in the evening resulted in a slower decline of hormones than when it was done in the morning.

The study — published in 2009 by the University of Jyväskylä in Finland — found that doing squats, leg presses and strength-building exercises with weights between 5pm and 7pm helped build the quadriceps (muscles that bend and straighten the knee) more quickly than early morning sessions.

Truths about teeth 

These are some changes to make your teeth healthier. Next week, brush your mouth in quarters

Many people tend to brush their teeth randomly. However, this can cause damage in some places, says Dr Hanna Kinsella from St Helens, Merseyside.

‘That’s why I advise patients to imagine their mouth in four sections,’ she explains, ‘and in each section they should clean their teeth on the outside, inside and top for ten seconds each.

‘Each section should take around 30 seconds — so you’ll be brushing for two minutes.’