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Diagnostics Analytical science, Technology and innovation, Precision medicine

Breath Testing for Early Diagnosis

Invasive, labor-intensive, and potentially risky – a list of characteristics that don’t sound desirable in a standard diagnostic tool. Yet tissue biopsy, with all of these characteristics, is the global gold standard in disease detection and diagnosis – and other well-established biopsy methods have their own limitations. It’s clear that we have an urgent need for new approaches that are affordable, accessible, reliable, and safe to enable effective early detection of disease and advance precision medicine. Breath biopsy – the detection, identification, and precise quantification of chemicals in breath – has the potential to transform clinical pathology.

Exhaled breath is a valuable source of prospective disease biomarkers, containing over 1,000 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in addition to respiratory droplets, which carry non-volatile compounds, proteins, lipids, nucleotides, bacteria, and viral particles. Together, these provide a rich source of information on metabolism, environmental factors, and disease processes. Breath collection is completely noninvasive and increasing sampling time allows detection of VOCs that may be present at very low levels in the earliest stages of disease. Such capabilities make breath a unique sampling option.

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About the Author

Jonathan Lawson

Head of Content at Owlstone Medical Ltd., Cambridge, UK.

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