Traditional Chinese medicine has long analyzed breath as a way to assess human health and in recent times state-of-the-art technology has been brought to this approach to diagnose various diseases and even stress. Swiss researchers at ETH Zurich and at the University Hospital Zurich are continuing to advance this field by developing a “breathprinting” technique using mass spectrometry that they hope will become competitive with the established analysis methods based on blood and urine.
The scientists modified commercial mass spectrometers to suit the experiment, adding a breath sampling inlet line to deliver exhaled breath from a mouth piece directly into the instrument. The researchers noted two important facts. The first is that the chemical breathprint of exhaled breath, based on volatile and semi-volatile metabolites, showed an individual core pattern. The second was that, during the 11-day test, the breathprint remained constant, making it useful for medical analysis.