Non-invasive device from Toshiba checks your breath to detect diabetes

(Credit: Toshiba)A prototype Toshiba breath analyzer

Goodbye needles. Japan's Toshiba Corporation has developed a new breath analyzer that could eventually simplify medical testing for a host of health conditions.

Toshiba's said its prototype medical breath analyzer is small enough to be used in small clinics or gyms since it's the size of a personal computer. Existing devices are larger and can only be used in hospitals and other medical facilities.

The new analyzer can provide analysis results in as little as 30 seconds, Toshiba said. It can measure organic compounds such as acetone, which can indicate obesity and diabetes, and acetaldehyde, which is involved in the chemistry of hangovers.

Toshiba plans to improve the analyzer so it can also detect carbon monoxide, methane, nitric monoxide and other constituents. This will allow doctors to check on conditions such as smoking, intestinal bacteria, asthma and helicobacter pylori, a stomach bacterium linked to ulcers and cancer.

Some doctors believe that breath analysis could one day be a vital tool for medical testing, along with blood tests and tissue imaging.

Toshiba plans to commercialize the analyzer in 2015, first in Japan and possibly overseas later on.

Toshiba said that by detecting trace exhaled gases, the analyzer can be used to monitor health indicators such as fat metabolism and help diagnose disease. It used gas analysis technologies from its semiconductor and other manufacturing operations to develop the device.

An infrared laser shines on the exhalation while a spectrum analysis component checks for telltale signs of organic compounds. Using a quantum cascade laser (a semiconductor laser used in gas analysis) allows the analyzer to have a small form factor while retaining the accuracy of larger, floor-mounted devices.

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