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Contact: Valene Marshall
vmarshal@nsf.gov
703-292-2984
National Science Foundation

This Breathalyzer Reveals Signs of Disease

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Caption: This invention could give new meaning to the term "bad breath!" It's the Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer, and when you blow into it, you get tested for a biomarker -- a sign of disease. For as amazing as that sounds, the process is actually very simple thanks to ceramics nanotechnology. All it takes is a single exhale. With support from the National Science Foundation, professor Perena Gouma and her team at Stony Brook University in New York developed a sensor chip that you might say is the "brain" of the breathalyzer. Itís coated with tiny nanowires that look like microscopic spaghetti and are able to detect minute amounts of chemical compounds in the breath. You canít buy this in the stores just yet -- individual tests such as an acetone-detecting breathalyzer for monitoring diabetes and an ammonia-detecting breathalyzer to determine when to end a home-based hemodialysis treatment are still being evaluated clinically. However researchers envision developing the technology such that a number of these tests can be performed with a single device. Within a couple of years you might be able to self-detect a whole range of diseases and disorders, including lung cancer, by just exhaling into a handheld breathalyzer.

Credit: Jon Baime, Science Nation producer

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