Breath Analysis as a Non-invasive Alternative for Medical Diagnostics
Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
8:00 AM Room: 207B
Janusz Pawliszyn, University of Waterloo
As the headspace of the blood, our exhaled breath contains a vast array of substances and molecules that hold great promise for monitoring our health and for the diagnosis and management of various lung and systemic diseases. With recent advances in technology, essentially anything in the blood that is potentially volatile or has a volatile metabolite can be measured in exhaled breath. This includes substances we produce endogenously as part of our normal (or disease-related) metabolism as well as volatile byproducts from our diet, medications, drugs, or toxins that we ingest. But, for better or worse, that is not all. Since we are constantly “sampling” the external environment as we breathe in the ambient air, exhaled breath can also reflect our environmental exposure(s). Furthermore, our breath contains volatile compounds produced by our “internal environment”: the bacteria in our gut and mouth. Add to all of that compounds produced locally in the lung and airways and you get a very rich matrix that has great potential to revolutionize and personalize medicine. But in order to unlock the great potential of this highly complex resource, we need to find ways to effectively sample and measure this reach environment and to understand its complexity and control or account for the sources of ambiguity. This requires transdisciplinary collaborations between medical professionals (physicians, medical researchers), scientists (analytical chemists, biochemists, physicists), engineers, commercial and industrial partners, and regulatory agencies. The major challenge for analytical chemists is to design portable hand-held devices allowing real-time or close to real time measurement of exhaled breath. Even though some devices exist (such as a hand-held device for nitric oxide measurement in exhaled breath for asthma monitoring), the use of volatile compounds in clinical routine is still in its infancy. The focus of this symposium is to outline how analytical chemistry is presently practiced in breath analysis and inform analytical researchers about challenges and opportunities in this area which will make it even more relevant to our discipline.