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Over 30 years, our partners at Canine Assistants watched the service dogs they placed alert to seizures before they happened.

At KNoW, we were curious as to what changes in the body these dogs were responding. 

After years of research, we discovered three volatile organic compoundsmolecules released from the body through exhalation breath, sweat, and saliva — only present in people with epilepsy and only emitted just before, during, and just after a seizure.

The dogs were smelling the changes in the body’s chemistry.

This made sense; a dog’s nose is 100,000 times more sensitive than a human’s. Amazingly, dogs can smell one drop of vanilla in an Olympic size swimming pool. In fact, their sense of smell is fundamentally different. While humans smell a beef stew cooking, dogs smell beef, onions, potatoes, and carrots, each individual ingredient.

With this information, the team at KNoW set out to take the fear out of never knowing when a seizure may happen for people who have epilepsy.

Our goal was to create a device that could collect volatile organic compounds, often called VOCs, from the skin, identify them, and alert to the presence of those that specifically indicated a seizure was oncoming.

Working with Sandia National Laboratories through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), KNoW has created a small wearable monitor — the VoLI — that can collect and identify the VOCs being emitted from the body.

The first application of this innovative technology is to alert to seizures in advance. But this is just the beginning.

Data about our overall health is being released from the body through VOCs every minute of every day. Until KNoW, the ability to read this data could only be done in a lab using copy machine-sized technology. The VoLI allows us to monitor our health in real-time. 

Each VoLI will customize itself to the specific individual who wears it, learning the normal concentration levels of key VOCs and alerting to changes. Even more importantly, each VoLI will learn from the data collected from all users by identifying patterns in body chemistry that signal in advance of potential health issues. 

This is life-changing.

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