A new study shows that children with type-1 diabetes exhale significantly higher levels of methyl nitrate when their blood sugar is high. That might not sound like earth-shattering news, but it could mean that diabetics have a noninvasive way to check their blood-sugar levels down the road.
Breath samples were taken from 10 children while they were in a hyperglycemic state and at intervals after they were given insulin. Those samples were then sent to a lab that normally studies air pollution. Their research allows them to detect trace chemicals in the atmosphere. They tested the breath samples for more than 100 gases at parts-per-trillion levels and found that concentrations of methyl nitrate were up to 10 times higher in children with high blood sugar.
We're still a long way from diabetics being able to measure their blood sugar with a handheld device and a puff of air. But discovering that correlation between blood sugar and exhaled chemicals is a solid first step in finding new, pain-free ways to monitor blood sugar throughout the day.
"Breath analysis has been showing promise as a diagnostic tool in a number of clinical areas, such as with ulcers and cystic fibrosis," said Pietro Galassetti, a diabetes researcher with the General Clinical Research Center at the University of California at Irvine. The research was conducted by the GCRC's Galassetti, Dan Cooper and Andria Pontello, along with UC Irvine chemists F. Sherwood Rowland and Donald Blake, and is set to appear in this week's online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.