It sounds like science fiction, but researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia are developing a system that they hope will one day detect diabetes, asthma and cancer in a patients’ exhaled breath.
The system uses a laser spectrometer to analyze the composition of gas. Breath contains molecular byproducts of the body’s metabolism. In the case of disease, these molecular byproducts change. Details of the system were published in the journal Optics Express in June (Opt Express.2015;23(11):13991-4001).
While a number of researchers are working on breath analysis across the world, the advantages of this system are it provides near instant results, has high sensitivity and can test for multiple molecules. The team hopes to have a prototype in the next 2-3 years, and a commercial product in 3-5 years. We’ll have to wait and see how the non-invasive early detection method progresses through the development process.