Breathprint: The New Fingerprint
What’s the Latest Development?
Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have discovered that individuals’ exhalations are as unique as their fingerprints, opening new avenues for medical diagnoses. The scientists were 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 miniscule amounts, sometimes less than one molecule per billion molecules of air.” Renato Zenobi, who led the research, said that metabolites in individuals’ breath remained “constant and clear”.
What’s the Big Idea?
Because our genomes, epigenomes and micobiomes are unique, reserachers were not entirely surprised to find that our breath metabolomes are also unique. And because Zenobi’s team can identify compounds in breath immediately, “our breathprint could be used to detect signature metabolites associated with disease, giving an instant diagnosis.” In a previous study, it was shown that breathprints accurately indicate whether people have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. By using a scheme that selectively charges trace amounts of volatile compounds in the breath, results are arrived at quicker that other tests currently used.
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