April 15, 2013 § Leave a comment
Our breath may be as unique as our fingerprint. Compounds in exhaled air produce a unique and stable molecular autograph or “breathprint” – one that could be used to monitor disease or track response to medication.
Renato Zenobi at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and his colleagues discovered breathprints by analysing the breath of 11 healthy individuals. The team did this four times a day over nine days, and used a technique called mass spectrometry to identify the molecules in each breath sample.
The team was interested in metabolites, compounds produced by the body’s metabolism. The molecules are volatile and small enough to pass from the blood into airways via the alveoli in our lungs, so are present in our breath – albeit in minuscule amounts, sometimes less than one molecule per billion molecules of air.
The team found that metabolites in individuals’ breath remained “constant and clear”, says Zenobi. read more