"It was a big challenge to handle such a complex data set with so many variables," he said.
So, after collecting the body odor samples, Dissanayake recruited the help of a mathematician to tailor a data-crunching program for their needs. Based on his analysis of the subjects' hundreds of VOCs, Dissanayake figured out that the sprays worked by greatly reducing the levels of 29 key compounds, either by killing the responsible bacteria, binding to the chemicals or converting them into less volatile compounds. To further narrow down the list, the next research step would entail seeing how deer react to these 29 candidates.
The techniques and analytical instruments the team used to look for deer-alerting odors overlap significantly with their methods in another area of the lab's research: diabetes alert dogs.
Formerly known as juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the body doesn't make insulin. An estimated 3 million people in the U.S. may have the disease. When patients' blood sugar rises or falls, they emit a different set of VOCs in their breath. Animal trainers have figured out how to get canines to sniff out changes in blood sugar levels, which can cause a number of symptoms including seizures. Specially trained dogs' keen senses of smell have already saved some patients hundreds of trips to the hospital. But dogs are expe
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