I'm in the middle of my life and I've witnessed firsthand the wonders of technology in our world. Jet travel, CDs, IPODs, personal computers and more have all come to prominence during my lifetime. Oh, and let's not forget the Internet—we wouldn't have MyAsthmaCentral.com or any of the other many other informational sites without it!
Now, there is new technology called the "electronic nose" that seems likely to be able to help sniff out asthma. The device's new application was announced at a symposium at the American Thoracic Society 2007 International Conference this week.
Electronic noses have sensors that can detect specific substances in chemical fumes. These substances are called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs for short. They're already using the electronic nose sensors in industries such as food, wine and perfume. And Homeland Security workers are starting to use "the nose" to search out explosives and toxic chemicals that terrorists like to use.
The latest use, however, for the electronic nose technology is in searching out the VOCs that are markers of lung disease in exhaled breaths. It's already been used to detect lung cancer and lung infections like pneumonia.
The symposium reported on a very small study of 40 patients, half of whom had already been diagnosed with asthma. The electronic nose was able to correctly identify the 20 patients who had asthma.
However, researchers had also hoped that it could detect levels of severity in asthma, which it did not do. Clearly, much more study will be needed to prove the effectiveness of the electronic nose technology. Still, the possibilities are exciting!