CU-Boulder physics doctoral student Michael Thorpe holds a detection chamber next to a novel laser apparatus at JILA. (Photo: CU)
February 19, 2008 We're familiar with the use of breath testing to determine blood alcohol content, but according to new research the air we exhale could reveal much more about what's happening in our bodies, and in the future, breath testing could become a regular part of visiting the doctor. The research by a team of US scientists has shown that markers for diseases such as asthma or cancer can be determined by analyzing trace molecules in the breath using laser light. Experiments using a pulsed laser aimed into a breath-filled cavity proved that gases such as ammonia, carbon monoxide, and methane could be detected revealing signposts to particular diseases being present in the patient - ammonia, for example, may indicate renal failure.