Exhaled air contains different information that can help clinicians to diagnose disease. For this diagnosis, researchers at the Fraunhofer Project Hub for Microelectronic and Optical Systems for Biomedicine MEOS are developing techniques to observe the breathing gas. The primary purpose of this research is to detect cancer at an early stage. But this same method is useful for the detection of COVID-19 and many other respiratory tract diseases.
The detection is mainly based on smell. Some diseases have a specials smell. For example, a faintly sweet and fruity acetone smell is mainly an indication of diabetes. Looking back in history indicates that some physicians in Ancient Greece also analyzed the smell of patient breath and can detect disease. The diseased tissue or the pathogen emits some volatile organic compounds. These distinct odours are actually due to the emissions of these organic compounds.
A Fingerprint of the patient’s metabolism:
Different diseases change the composition of these volatile organic gases. This change is used as biomarkers in exhaled air. Dr Jessy Schonfelder, a research associate at Fraunhofer MEOS, further explains that “It’s often a blend of several trace gases in a considerably important or considerably condensed concentration that distinguish between specific diseases. This is the VOC fingerprint or VOC pattern.” Fraunhofer is an interdisciplinary project hub that involved members of the Fraunhofer Institutes for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI, Photonic Microsystems IPMS, and Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IO.
The researchers working on this project have high hopes that this technology will help them to detect a wide range of biomarkers. The most advanced purpose of this technology is the detection of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases. This shows that this technology or research is the need of time. This technology introduced in the Fraunhofer cluster project M3Infekt. This project is developing a mobile, modular, and multimodal monitoring system that will help in rapid involvement in the event of the severe condition of COVID-19 patients.
Also, this technique of breath gas study might grant a warning of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. This would not only grant earlier caution than with predictable methods such as blood testing but also be more suitable since it merely involves that the patient breathes into a tube.
There’s a huge possibility for sensor systems in breath gas study. IMS technology is noninvasive, responsive, and careful. And it is quick, inexpensive, and also dense, and moveable, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be used in medical practices and hospitals. The finished product will be about the size of a shoebox.”
Dr. Jessy Schönfelder, research associate at Fraunhofer MEOS
Application in lung Cancer:
The most effective application of this technique is the detection of lung cancer. Lung cancer has a high mortality rate throughout the world. Its incidence is still increasing across the globe. Different studies have done to distinguish the breathe samples from patients with and without lung cancer. Two different teams of researchers first time investigate the VOCs in potential lung cancer biomarkers in 1988. Then in 1999, Phillips discovered a blend of 22 VOCs which includes methylated alkanes and benzene derivatives.
The results of many studies reveal that oxidative stress is linked to lung cancer. But the limitation of this research is that only a few samples were studied. The VOCs markers are different in different individuals. Different observation shows that there is significant variation between lung cancer patients, breath and exhaled breath of healthy volunteers. That’s why further research is necessary to confirm the efficacy of breath VOCs for the diagnosis of lung cancer.
Tecnalia, through the Interreg project Medisen, is causal to build up biosensors proficient in distinguishing the presence of tumour markers of lung cancer in exhaled breath. This is feasible because of the changes formed within the organism of a sick person. Changes revealed in the exhaled breath of the patient and which facilitates shaping the presence of this type of marker during the early phase of the disease.
Patients with lung cancer, treated in the Section of Medical Oncology of the Institute of Onco-Haematology of the Donostia Hospital (IDOH) have acted as a team in this phase of a project. For that, the Ethics board of the Clinical Research of Euskadi (CEIC) approval the Instituto Biodonostia for the clinical experiments.
Different organic compounds are present in human breath, whether it is from a healthy or sick person. These organic compounds may include acetone, methanol, butanol, hydrocarbons, etc.
We can’t specify a single component in the breath as a marker for the detection of lung cancer. So a combination of biomarkers is used. The interesting markers to be found are 1-20 parts per billion in the healthy individual breath. But this range increased to 10-100 parts per billion in the breath of an ill patient. To be able to identify these changes, the progress of novel materials was necessary.
Examination of the samples:
In the first stage of the project, breath samples were composed of the hospital staff. A detailed examination of the most delegate compounds present in the breath samples has carried out. And the family or families of composites required acting as markers for the presence of lung cancer selected. Organic compounds have been studied by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry study (GC/MS). Then, the GC/MS results of breath tests have been studied by arithmetical and structural algorithms to distinguish and recognize “healthy and “cancerous” outlines that grant information for the design of the sensor.
In corresponding, narrative materials for the diagnosis of the preferred organic compounds have developed by Tecnalia to boost the sensitivity of the devices. Contributing together with Tecnalia in this project was the Instituto de Tecnologías Químicas Emergentes de La Rioja (Inter-Química) crafting the sensor device and the University of Perpignan (France) testing the original materials.
The biosensors will make possible the analysis of certain diseases; mainly those positioned in the lungs, at the early stages of the illness, which could increase the probability of endurance significantly. In conclusion, breath psychoanalysis is an interdisciplinary field of research work which contains medical science, analytical techniques, materials chemistry, data processing, and electronics.
It is a speedily rising field that can enormously donate to society by an initial diagnosis of diseases. These present devices that can develop for breath analysis; though, they are large, require a trained workforce, expensive; and not appropriate for regular use.
Scrutinizing of diseases and evaluation of publicity to VOCs/gases by studying exhaled breath using a breathalyzer still has a lot of confronts to beat. This includes standardization, sampling methods, defining markers. More specifically, the moisture of exhaled breath is a significant interfacing driving force. It participates in sensing and produces incorrect results. A standard, strong and cheap breathalyzer can come to market for regular use only when all issues will be determined.