Diabetes ‘Breathalyzers’

Scientists research measuring breath acetone—which often presents a fruit-like odor—as a new way to detect and monitor type 2 diabetes without needles.

Nurse with latex gloves administering a diabetes blood test

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“Fruity breath” is a common trait among people with high glucose levels. Now, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are exploring the possibility of measuring breath acetone—which often presents as a fruit-like odor—as a way to detect and monitor type 2 diabetes. The researchers created a sensor device that can measure acetone vapors emitted in the breath. The team is currently working on a prototype of the sensors, which it will soon test on different human breath samples.

Diabetics typically use blood meters to measure glucose levels. Recent years have seen the development of implanted devices that track glucose levels without drawing blood.

The University of Pittsburgh researchers believe their technique has the potential to significantly simplify the surveillance process.

“Once patients are diagnosed with diabetes, they have to monitor their condition for the rest of their lives,” says Alexander Star, principal investigator of the project and Pittsburgh associate professor of chemistry. “Current monitoring devices are mostly based on blood glucose analysis, so the development of alternative devices that are noninvasive, inexpensive, and provide easy-to-use breath analysis could completely change the paradigm of self-monitoring diabetes.”

For four simple steps to reducing your risk of developing diabetes, don’t miss Dodging Diabetes from the November/December 2013 issue.

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