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Rapid diagnosis of a range of health conditions is just a breath away

A new centre launched tomorrow (Friday 2 October) is the base for a team of scientists developing breath analysis tests that could help in the rapid diagnosis and treatment for a range of conditions including cancers, respiratory infections and diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Loughborough University’s Professor Paul Thomas is part of a team of experts who will work within the new East Midlands Breathomics Pathology Node (EMBER), which has been established with a grant from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

EMBER draws upon expertise in clinical research, analytical chemistry, data management and mathematical modelling of complex data across the East Midlands from University of Leicester, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and Loughborough University together with industry to develop rapid, near patient non-invasive approaches to diagnosis, phenotyping and stratification.

The consortium hopes to establish a multidisciplinary world-class centre that is driving the discovery, development, validation and adoption of non-invasive technologies to characterise disease signatures based upon the molecular analysis of breath.

The air we breathe out contains a cocktail of volatile organic compounds that give a snapshot of the biological processes taking place in the lungs and beyond. EMBER will help develop breath analysis tests and these could give an instant diagnosis and help doctors pick the best treatments for a range of conditions.

The Loughborough University team is responsible for preparing the in-clinic systems, and leading the data analysis.

Professor Paul Thomas from Loughborough University’s Chemistry department said: “If we can isolate the markers of disease in breath, we can develop mobile tests that can be taken at your GP surgery or at home, making screening faster, less invasive, and substantially reducing the cost.

“This is the first time multiple diseases have been simultaneously monitored using different technology within one project. We have a unique end-to-end oversight of the measurement and clinical process, with clinicians and analytical scientists working together.”

Moving forward, Professor Thomas hopes to work with colleagues in data science to develop new ways of processing and quantifying significant data.