3D Printed Breathalyzer May Diagnose Multiple Diseases In One Breath

By Christie Abagon , Dec 28, 2016 07:44 PM EST

Doctors in the fifth century were advised by Hippocrates to smell their patients' breath in order to detect maladies. Modern science backed this idea that there are indeed certain diseases which may cause the body to produce volatile compounds, which could provide diagnostic method if detected properly.

For the past decade, scientists developed sniff tests for diagnosing tuberculosis, hypertension, cystic fibrosis, and even certain types of cancer, Quartz reported. For example, cystic fibrosis causes the patient's bodies to function in a way that they produce nearly four times as much acetic acid (the base chemical in vinegar) as healthy people.

The Inspiration Of The Breathalyzer Is A Dog's Nose

Researchers led by Hossam Haick at the Israel Institute of Technology took the idea a step further by building a breathalyzer that is compact and can diagnose up to 17 diseases from a single breath. The study, which was published in ACS Publications, details how 3D printed device containing a sensor array of carbon nanotubes is used to capture the unique "breathprint" of certain diseases.

According to Haick, they got their inspiration from dogs, because a dog's nose "can be trained to recognize the scent of a disease on someone's breath and distinguish it from a healthy person." He also added that instead of the nose, his team "have chemical sensors instead of the dog's brain, and a computer algorithm" so they can communicate more about the disease than a dog sniffing it out.

Disease Have A Unique "Breath Print"

Researchers found that just as we each have a unique fingerprint, each of the diseases that they have studied has a unique "breath print" or a 'signature' of chemical components. Haick added that they have created a device which can discriminate between diseases, and which is "elegant and affordable." The research team said that their results can be used to create inexpensive, noninvasive and portable biomedical devices, projected to cost as little as $40.

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