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Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2013 Nov 25;4:163. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2013.00163.

Diabetes and the metabolic syndrome: possibilities of a new breath test in a dolphin model.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, University of California, Davis , Sacramento, CA , USA ; Center for Comparative Respiratory Biology and Medicine, University of California, Davis , Davis, CA , USA.


Diabetes type-2 and the metabolic syndrome are prevalent in epidemic proportions and result in significant co-morbid disease. Limitations in understanding of dietary effects and cholesterol metabolism exist. Current methods to assess diabetes are essential, though many are invasive; for example, blood glucose and lipid monitoring require regular finger sticks and blood draws. A novel method to study these diseases may be non-invasive breath testing of exhaled compounds. Currently, acetone and lipid peroxidation products have been seen in small scale studies, though other compounds may be significant. As Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) have been proposed as a good model for human diabetes, applications of dietary manipulations and breath testing in this population may shed important light on how to design human clinical studies. In addition, ongoing studies indicate that breath testing in dolphins is feasible, humane, and yields relevant metabolites. By studying the metabolic and cholesterol responses of dolphins to dietary modifications, researchers may gain insight into human diabetes, improve the design of costly human clinical trials, and potentially discover biomarkers for non-invasive breath monitoring.


bottlenose dolphins; diabetes; exhaled breath; metabolic syndrome; volatile organic compounds

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