Toshiba today announced that it has developed a prototype of a compact breath analyzer that can detect a wide range of trace gases in exhaled breath. The analyzer has the potential to provide analysis that can be applied to health monitoring and diagnosis of disease.
Exhalations of breath carry trace amounts of gases that can be used in diagnostics. For instance, the presence of acetone may indicate diabetes, while methane provides clues as to the condition of the intestinal environment. Toshiba recognizes the analyzer as a promising tool along a continuum ranging from diet and exercise advice to disease diagnosis.
In order to develop the capabilities of the new analyzer, Toshiba has commissioned Waseda University, one of Japan’s leading research universities, to undertake clinical measurements of acetone concentrations in exhaled breath and to correlate the results with fat metabolism, an approach that may advance understanding of how to develop diets and food supplements. The research will start on April 1st.
Toshiba has applied gas analysis technologies that it has cultivated in its semiconductor and other manufacturing activities to the breath analyzer. A breath exhaled into the equipment is irradiated with an infrared laser, and trace gases detected across the absorption spectrum. The adoption of a quantum cascade laser* as the light source has allowed Toshiba to develop desktop-sized equipment that delivers accuracy comparable to that of current floor-mounted breath analyzers.
The current version of the equipment can detect acetaldehyde and methane in addition to acetone. Toshiba will extend this to other gases, including isotopes of carbon dioxide, toward starting production to order in 2015.
Naoko Toyoshima, a chief specialist in Toshiba’s corporate New Business Development Division, said: “We see great potential for the breath analyzer, from the health enhancement of exercise regimes and nutritional supplements through to diagnostics. We will promote more collaboration with universities and hospitals in order to build a knowledge base for breath analysis and to support wide ranging and practical application.”
Under its mid-term business plan, Toshiba positions “Healthcare Systems & Services” as a third key pillar of business, alongside “Energy” and “Storage Products.” In fiscal year 2015, to March 31, 2016, Toshiba targets sales of 600 billion yen in the healthcare business area, and will achieve this figure by bringing together technologies from a wide range of business areas.
Note: A new semiconductor laser that emits a beam in the mid-infrared band of 3 to 10um, where a large number of chemicals are absorbed.
Constituents that can be measured by a breath analyzer
Acetaldehyde: Intermediate of alcohol metabolism. The cause of hangovers.
Acetone: Intermediate of fatty acid metabolism. An indicator of obesity and diabetes.
Carbon monoxide: Intermediate of heme catabolism. An indicator of smoking
Constituents that will be measured by a breath analyzer in the future
Methane: Discharge from metabolism of intestinal bacterium.
An indicator of the intestinal environment.
Nitric monoxide: Generated by airway inflammation. An indicator of asthma.
13C carbon dioxide: Generated by 13C-labeled drug metabolism. Used for helicobacter pylori testing.