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Breath analysis could detect disease

  |   Dec. 28, 2010 at 8:19 PM
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Dec. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they're making progress on breath-analysis technology that could diagnose patients by detecting biomarkers in a person's respiration.

Purdue University researchers say their approach can rapidly detecting biomarkers in the parts-per-billion to parts-per-million range, at least 100 times better than previous breath-analysis technologies, a Purdue University release said Tuesday.

Using nanoparticle-coated microparticles instead of a flat surface allows researchers to increase the porosity of the sensors, increasing the "active sensing surface area" to improve sensitivity, the release said.

"People have been working in this area for about 30 years but have not been able to detect low enough concentrations in real time," Carlos Martinez, an assistant professor of materials engineering at Purdue, said. "We solved that problem with the materials we developed, and we are now focusing on how to be very specific, how to distinguish particular biomarkers."

Detecting biomarkers can provide an indication of a patient's health profile, showing the possible presence of cancer and other diseases, the researchers say.

The researchers say they have used the technology to detect acetone, a biomarker for diabetes, with sensitivity in the parts-per-billion range.

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