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On the Horizon: Breath Tests for Health?

Published: April 13, 2009

In the future, a sophisticated sensor being developed at the University of Missouri may analyze breath or urine samples for chemical clues about what is happening inside the body. The test will help determine whether the patient has breast cancer, lung cancer, diabetes or asthma.

The device, known as the opto-fluidic ring resonator (OFRR), detects molecules that pass through a polymer-lined glass tube.

“Traces of certain gas molecules in the breath or urine tell us if anything unusual is going on in the body,” explained professor and investigator Xudong “Sherman” Fan of UM’s Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center. “Measuring these volatile markers would be a noninvasive way to determine if a disease is present without having to draw blood or complete a biopsy. In addition to the biomarkers already discovered, many more potential volatile markers are still under investigation.”

Fan’s research is funded by the National Science Foundation. At present, the following gas molecules are known to be biomarkers of disease:

Breast cancer: Alkanes, Methylated alkanes, Formaldehyde

Diabetes: Acetone

Liver function and organ rejection: Carbonyl sulfide

Lung cancer: Acetaldehyde

Renal function: Ammonia

Asthma: Nitric oxide

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  • Raymond Tompkins

    Would like to see comments on what progress is being made on a cure for parkinson’s disease.