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Respiration. 2013;85(1):72-84. doi: 10.1159/000340044. Epub 2012 Sep 25.

The electronic nose in respiratory medicine.

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Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy.


Several volatile organic compounds have been identified in exhaled breath in healthy subjects and patients with respiratory diseases by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Identification of selective patterns of volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath could be used as a biomarker of inflammatory lung diseases. An electronic nose (e-nose) is an artificial sensor system that generally consists of an array of chemical sensors for detection of volatile organic compound profiles (breathprints) and an algorithm for pattern recognition. E-noses are handheld, portable devices that provide immediate results. E-noses discriminate between patients with respiratory disease, including asthma, COPD and lung cancer, and healthy control subjects, and also among patients with different respiratory diseases. E-nose breathprints are associated with airway inflammation activity. In combination with other 'omics' platforms, e-nose technology might contribute to the identification of new surrogate markers of pulmonary inflammation and subphenotypes of patients with respiratory diseases, provide a molecular basis to a personalized pharmacological treatment, and facilitate the development of new drugs.

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