(July 8, 2015) University of Adelaide researchers are developing a laser system for fast, non-invasive, onsite breath analysis for disease, potentially enabling screening for a range of diseases including diabetes, infections and various cancers in the future.
The researchers have developed an instrument they equate to an “optical dog’s nose” which uses a special laser to measure the molecular content of a sample of gas.
“Rather than sniffing out a variety of smells as a dog would, the laser system uses light to “sense” the range of molecules that are present in the sample,” says Dr James Anstie, Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Fellow with the University’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS).
“Those molecules are by-products of metabolic processes in the body and their levels change when things go wrong. There have been good studies undertaken around the world which show that diseases like lung and oesophageal cancer, asthma and diabetes can be detected in this way, even before external symptoms are showing.”
Breath analysis is a relatively new field being pursued around the world. But the system being developed offers almost-instant results, high sensitivity and the ability to test for a range of molecules at once ─ making it promising for broadscale health screening.