Bioanalysis Zone

Portable breath sensor rapidly measures specific breath components


A portable breath sensor has been developed that is able to rapidly measure specific gas components in breath, and which may lead to faster disease diagnoses. The device, developed by Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., could be used to measure specific gases, such as ammonia, that act as disease biomarkers, but which are only present at low concentrations. The new sensor could make light work of identifying molecules that are currently only identifiable using large analysis equipment.

Breath analysis is being increasingly researched for use in disease diagnosis: for example, the early detection of lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Furthermore, some gases have been demonstrated to act as disease biomarkers: ammonia in a person’s breath has been found to correlate with liver metabolism disorders, and can also be an indicator of H. Pylori infection (itself a risk factor for stomach cancer), and nonanal is a candidate biomarker for lung cancer.

It is hoped that breath analysis can soon be used for the quick and non-invasive detection of lifestyle diseases, leading to early diagnosis and improved lifestyle habits.

At present, breath analysis can be carried out using large analysis techniques, such as gas chromatography or using an electric nose, which contains multiple gas sensors to analyze the response patterns between different breath samples. The former technique can reliably measure target gases, but the equipment is expensive, bulky and it takes several hours to obtain a result. On the other hand, the electric nose is portable and quick, but cannot reliably distinguish between target gases and other gases.

This new breath sensor addresses each of these shortfalls. The manufacturers focused on ammonia as a target gas, utilizing the ammonia-absorbing properties of copper(I) bromide films to develop a highly sensitive ammonia gas sensor.

The device measures ammonia with a sensitivity differential of approximately 2500-times that for other gases: it is able to detect ammonia at concentrations as low as 10 ppb. The device utilizes an algorithm that quantifies ammonia concentration in terms of the rise in resistance relative to the gas, producing a reading within 10 s of exhalation.

The device is also the first to selectively detect nonanal, a potential biomarker for lung cancer, at concentrations of 200 ppb.

Fujitsu aims to increase the range of gases that the device is able to detect, with the goal of the device one day being used as a standard diagnostic test. The company also aim to incorporate sensors into smart and wearable devices. They are currently seeking collaboration with medical institutions: the team hope that the sensor can be used as a first diagnostic step before hospital admittance, with a goal of clinical implementation in 2018.

Source: Fujitsu press release


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