Breathalyzer's Not Just for Cops: Hand-Held Device May Diagnose Diabetes

A newly developed hand-held breath analyzer tests for elevated levels of acetone, which is strongly associated with undiagnosed diabetes.

A diagnostic diabetes breathalyzer may one day become a reality.

Scientists have developed a new, portable breath analyzer that could help physicians diagnose diabetes in a noninvasive way in the future.

Studies have shown a strong link between elevated levels of acetone in exhaled breath and diabetes, but detecting the concentrations is challenging, since breath contains a complex mix of compounds that can skew the results.

Although mass spectrometry can accurately detect these elevated levels, it is not practical for point-of-care testing. In a new study published in Analytical Chemistry, researchers looked to address this issue.

Investigators created a hand-held device with an adsorbent polymer that could trap acetone from exhaled breath, and release it from a cavity where a laser identifies its concentration levels.

To test the accuracy of their device, the researchers used the breath of healthy subjects under different conditions, such as after overnight fasting or exercising. The results of their subjects were compared with mass spectrometry readings.

The findings showed that the measurements were similar, and covered a wide range of concentrations, including those that suggest a patient has undiagnosed type 1 diabetes, or had issues controlling their blood glucose.

The study authors noted that another highlight of the new device is that it can be reused, providing cost savings.