As Stony Brook University researcher Perena Gouma looks
on, technician demonstrates breath­alyzer device that
promises to detect signs of disease.
Blue ammonia molecules indicate ­kidney
disease in this illustration of the Single Breath
Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer.

Instead of instructing us to breathe deeply and say “ah,” future doctors may simply have us exhale into diagnostic breathalyzers.

The Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer is being developed by a team of scientists at Stony Brook University in New York, led by materials scientist Perena Gouma. The device uses sensor chips coated with nanowires to detect chemical compounds that may indicate the presence of diseases or infectious microbes.

While the first such “medical breathalyzers” will be specific to one type of disease (for instance, to monitor diabetes), future handheld devices will allow individual users to self-monitor and detect diseases ranging from lung cancer to anthrax exposure.

Source: National Science Foundation,