Exhaled breath contains large quantities of fine aerosol particles and various gaseous components. The latter include water vapor, oxygen, and carbon dioxide, but also carbon monoxide (CO), nitric oxide (NO), and a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOC). While CO and NO measurements are already in clinical use, providing information on smoking habits or the severity of allergic airway inflammation, the huge amount of information contained in VOC in exhaled breath has been little exploited so far. Small, handy devices allowing fast and reliable analysis of exhaled breath are already available for blood alcohol measurement and detection of drug consumption. Over the past few years, however, research has shown that VOC composition in exhaled breath can provide additional clues to inflammatory processes, metabolic disorders, tumors, and infections. Indeed, exhaled VOC originate not only from the lungs, but reflect metabolic processes in the whole body.
Fraunhofer ITEM scientists are investigating the potential of non-invasive VOC measurement in exhaled breath to help detect inflammatory processes in a variety of diseases. The aim is to develop simple and inexpensive methods suited for use in daily clinical practice to closely monitor airway inflammation in clinical trials with novel anti-inflammatory drug candidates.