Zurich Exhalomics aims at providing technical solutions for the rapid and sensitive real-time analysis of exhaled breath and bringing usable analysis into the clinic by developing cutting-edge analytical technologies and improved instrumentation.
The fact that exhaled breath contains valuable information on the health status of a subject has been known since the time of the ancient Greeks (e.g. foetor hepaticus). More recently, trained dogs and rats have been used to sniff diseases such as cancer or tuberculosis with reasonable accuracy. Evidently, it would be possible to detected exhaled molecules that define a disease using a highly sensitive machine. However, to date, there is almost no disease that is diagnosed in clinical routine via exhaled breath analysis.
In the long run, exhaled breath analysis shall become a replacement technology for a number of clinical analyses that are currently performed on urine or blood samples and may even enable diagnoses of conditions so far impossible to definitely diagnose (e.g. asthma in preschool children). In addition, exhaled breath analysis will enable individual metabolic phenotyping and personalized medicine.
Diseases of the respiratory system such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer are particularly accessible for real-time breath analysis. Such non-invasive, streamlined procedures will be key to facilitate rapid decision making, e.g. for immediate initiation of pathogen-targeted antibiotic treatment in patients with pneumonia. In addition to diseases of the respiratory tract, metabolic disorders such as diabetes and nephropathies will also be detected via specific biomarkers contained in exhaled breath. Even more applications are conceivable such as non-invasive pharmacokinetics, chronopharmacology, and the monitoring of sedation and anesthesia in real-time. The improvement of patient comfort by introducing rapid and non-invasive diagnostic procedures will be a significant benefit, especially for children.
The Zurich Exhalomics project is divided into two main research tracks of strongly interacting groups and experts of several disciplines. One track focuses on selected diseases and development of biomarkers. The other track aims at the integration of cutting-edge technology into a portable device.