Researchers are developing a laser-based system they say could one day allow doctors to rapidly screen for diseases like cancer, diabetes, and infections using exhaled breath.
The team from the University of Adelaide in Australia said the "optical dog's nose" they have created uses a special laser spectrometer to analyze the molecular composition of a sample of gas, Medical News Today
"Rather than sniffing out a variety of smells as a dog would, the laser spectrometry system uses light to 'sense' the range of molecules that are present in the sample," said James Anstie, M.D., a researcher at Adelaide's Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing.
In a report in the journal Optics Express
, he and his colleagues described how the system measures the light-absorption patterns of different molecules in exhaled breath fast and accurately.
They noted that our breath contains molecular byproducts of our body's metabolism, which can be changed — and detected — when diseases strike.
Past studies has used breath analysis to detect diseases like lung and esophageal cancer, asthma and diabetes, but the new Australian system is faster, more accurate, and can detect a wider range of disorders.
Dr. Anstie and his team hope to have a prototype system up and running in two to three years.
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