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Breathalyzer Detects Diseases From Diabetes to Cancer

Take a deep breath and exhale thousands of clues about your health. Perena Gouma and her team at Stony Brook University have developed a breathalyzer with a sensor chip that can detect diseases and disorders like diabetes, high cholesterol and lung cancer. The sensor is coated with tiny nanowires capable of isolating biomarkers — chemical compounds in the breath that signal disease. It is still in clinical trial, but could one day become widely available.

“Each nanowire can capture a particular chemical, a particular compound,” Gouma said.

For example, ammonia is a marker that indicates a particular kidney problem; acetone indicates diabetes.

“You really have people taking charge of their own health, because they can get something over the counter, and it’s going to be a first response or first detection type of device,” Gouma said.

NewsHour Science Correspondent Miles O’Brien reports for the National Science Foundation’s* Science Nation.

*For the record, the National Science Foundation is an underwriter of the NewsHour.

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