Could your breath be as unique as your fingerprint?
We all know that no two fingerprints are identical, but new research is suggesting that your breath may be as unique as the patterns on the tips of your fingers.
When you breathe out, it’s not just CO2 you’re releasing into the atmosphere; there are also leftover metabolites from all the processes that are required to keeping your body alive. Renato Zenobi at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and his colleagues discovered breathprints by analysing the exhalations of 11 healthy individuals and found they remained stable over each day and over the course of the investigation (nine days). This means that although we already use breathalysers to test alcohol content, we could also potentially use them to detect a lot more. Your individual breathprint has a specific chemical pattern which is unique to you, so changes in it could indicate disease. Using a mass spectrometer (a device that separates molecules by mass) it is possible to map a patient’s unique breathprint, track changes and detect patterns that suggest there may be an underlying condition.
The next stages of research will attempt to determine aspects of breathprints that are indicative of disease. This faster, cheaper and less invasive diagnostic method could replace blood tests, providing the molecules of interest are volatile and small enough to be passed from the blood into the alveoli of our lungs.
Your breath contains metabolites that could be used to diagnose disease