Cancer Breath 

Joy Hollowell

Fingerprints are an easy way to identify someone because no two are like.It turns out the same is true with our breath.Scientists at the University of Maine are now honing in on what we breathe out.And as Joy Hollowell tells us, it’s research they hope will someday save lives.==========Imagine being able to detect cancer, simply by doing this.(exhaling breath)A breath test is something researchers at the University of Maine in Orono have been working on for more than three years now. The Department of Defense has provided half a million dollars in funding.Professor Touradj Solouki is leading the project.”We’re still at the very initial stages of research, but the hope is that a few years from now, it will be like a blood or urine analysis,” says Professor Solouki.The idea is that each of us have our own breath print. And those in a healthy person differ from someone who is sick, or even predisposed to a disease.”It is the components of breath, what the molecules are,” says Professor Solouki. “And the components that we’re interested in are like less than one billionth of what breath consists us.”The difficulty comes in pinpointing those tiny bio-markers. And that’s where this comes in. It’s more formal name is…”A Preconcentrator/Gas Chromatography/Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometer.”The machine literally breaks down a person’s breath, giving researchers a map of molecules.”the breath sample goes through here.”The samples come from UMaine’s partner in this project, the Pine Street Foundation in Northern California. Researchers there are using dogs that can literally sniff out ovarian cancer in breath samples. “they (dogs) are very interesting in the sense that they can both detect those markers or those molecules at very, very low concentrations, but also they can make sense of it,” says Professor Solouki.He adds that the Preconcentrator/Gas Chromatography/Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometer can now compete with that. “most technologies that are used right now unfortunately, they can only detect it often with at least a billion or 10 billion molecules in the body that are cancerous. And often times, that’s even stage one.”Joy Hollowell, WABI TV 5 News, Orono.========The Preconcentrator/Gas Chromatography/Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometer takes a breath sample and first compounds it, getting rid of the carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen and saving just the organics. Then, those organic molecules are separated into different bunches. The separated molecules are then given a magnetic charge and sent spinning through an extremely strong magnetic field. Tiny sensors on the sides of the magnet can pinpoint the mass of each molecule, based on how fast they are spinning.