Monday, July 4, 2011

New Uses for Breathalyzers

Someday, breathalyzers will be used for a lot more than just determining whether a motorist is drunk. A biotechnology company is working on a desktop device called BreathlinkTM for the rapid identification of pulmonary tuberculosis and other diseases. Researchers are also working on methods for detecting lung and breast cancer; exposure to radiation; air pollution; and the type of volatile organic chemicals typically found in carpets and upholstery. There’s even a breath analysis test for determining whether a heart transplant patient is rejecting his/her new heart. The basic idea is simple; any chemical substance that appears in exhaled air as the direct result of a disease or environmental exposure could be used to diagnose diseases or environmental exposures, provided that the chemical can be detected accurately.

Just how many diseases or environmental substances might be detected by breath analysis, no one knows just yet - as a technique, breath analysis is still in its infancy. But in the not too distant future, breath analysis might become another simple, non-invasive screening method for early detection of disease. Just breathe into this tube, please…..

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