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    Breath as unique as a fingerprint? Scientists from AGH University of Science and Technology will check it

    Just as each person has a unique fingerprint, they likely have an individual set of compounds contained in their exhaled air. If the AGH scientists’ research confirms this hypothesis, breath could become another bio identifier, e.g., proving an identity.

    The search for this “breathing imprint” (exhaled breath pattern) and its detection method is conducted by Artur Rydosz, DSc, Professor at the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow.


    “We are still trying to figure out whether this is possible at all, i.e., whether out of the 3,500 compounds detected so far in exhaled air it is possible to find such an individual set, the breathing pattern of a given person, which additionally will not change due to the current state of health or past diseases,” the researcher told PAP.


    He added that the first study of its kind, conducted in the United States, seems promising, with 1,000 people studied and 1,000 different respiratory profiles obtained.


    “Of course, it needs to be verified, whether this was influenced by external factors e.g., a different study site or different apparatus, but the first analyses seem optimistic. The hypothesis itself has been known since the 1970s when it began to be noticed that the respiratory profile is to some extent individual. This is because by comparing the breaths of different people, we can find compounds that are the same, that are significantly different, so they can be such biomarkers of different diseases, there is a certain concentration of compounds associated with the observed clinical picture, but there are also compounds that cannot be so easily compared. They may just be indicative of the uniqueness of the breath,” he pointed out.


    If the hypothesis is confirmed, the breath could become another bio-identifier e.g., identity confirmation.


    Modern medicine uses knowledge of respiratory biomarkers.


    “From the breath, you can detect diabetes, asthma, cancer, lung disease, kidney disease, intestinal disease, among others. There are more and more such examples and solutions,” he pointed out.


    One such example is the device that Rydosz’s team is working on. It’s a breathalyser for diabetics (called Diabetomat), which looks and works like a normal breathalyser, but instead of measuring the content of ethanol in the exhaled air, it determines the level of ketone bodies and thus allows to diagnose diabetes and monitor its course. Clinical trials of this device are ongoing.


    In contrast, research on “breath imprinting” is about to begin. The team from AGH will be conducting these as part of their study of people with diabetes and the development of Diabetomat.


    “As we measure diabetic biomarkers in our patients, we will also want to see on occasion whether a group of highly individualized compounds can be distinguished; whether this is at all possible,” he stressed.


    Rydosz acknowledged that this was an “insanely difficult” research hypothesis, but conducting this research is “extremely cognitively interesting.” “Even if the main hypothesis is not confirmed, I am confident that on occasion other biomarkers will be discovered, and through our publications and results, we will encourage other scientists to research. It is often forgotten that many breakthroughs came about by accident,” he pointed out.


    High-tech equipment is needed to study human respiratory profiles.


    “Reference analyzers are very complicated devices and very expensive. We are currently waiting for the results of the competition for an equipment grant from the Ministry of Education and Science to finance a decent reference analyzer, which costs 3.5 million PLN. Its acquisition will place us among the European leaders and then we will be able to look for foreign partners,” DSc Rydosz emphasized.

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