Fingerprints in our breath

Fingerprints in our breath

 

Chromalytica is developing an ultraviolet (UV) light-based instrument in which a single breath of exhaled air can be a supplement to, and sometimes replace, blood and urine tests as well as invasive diagnostic procedures. The company required an extremely precise light source in the UV wavelength range to optimise the instrument and eliminate sources of error. Such a light source was available at MAX IV in Lund.

“Exhaled air is like a fingerprint”, says Lennart Olsson, co-founder of Chromalytica. “By analyzing the air chemically, we can quickly obtain a huge amount of specific information that today requires more resource-intensive and tedious methods of diagnosis. Our goal is to develop a multi-tool that quickly and easily provides a picture of the patient’s health – and which can be used to detect various diseases in the early stages. We already have a database containing about 1,400 important substances, and research is constantly providing us with updated knowledge about the relationships between substances in exhaled breath and various diseases.”The science behind Chromalytica’s instruments is based on the fact that different chemical substances absorb UV light in distinct ways. Exhaled breath is concentrated and passed through a thin so-called light pipe where it is illuminated by a controlled UV light source. Using a spectrometer, measurements are made of which wavelengths are absorbed and a clear picture of the contents of the exhaled breath is obtained. The entire procedure takes no more than 15 minutes and provides answers to many questions that today require advanced laboratory tests which can be stressful for the patient. In some cases, for example, it may be possible to avoid taking biopsies.

The science behind Chromalytica’s instruments is based on the fact that different chemical substances absorb UV light in distinct ways. Exhaled breath is concentrated and passed through a thin so-called light pipe where it is illuminated by a controlled UV light source. Using a spectrometer, measurements are made of which wavelengths are absorbed and a clear picture of the contents of the exhaled breath is obtained. The entire procedure takes no more than 15 minutes and provides answers to many questions that today require advanced laboratory tests, which can be stressful for the patient. In some cases, for example, it may be possible to avoid taking biopsies.

Chromalytica’s analytical instruments are based on extreme precision, where the slightest deviation in measurements can result in significant errors in results, something that is unacceptable in an instrument used in medical analyses. Chromalytica turned to MAX IV to obtain an accurate reference point and identify possible sources of error.

“At MAX IV Laboratory we had access to a powerful and perfect UV light source, which provided us with a completely controlled measurement environment. The experiments we carried out allowed us to identify and correct various limitations in the instrument. By making these calibrations, a clear picture emerged of how different components affected the instrument’s linearity – this helped us to hone the specification of requirements for our subcontractors. It would have been almost impossible for us to generate all this information on our own. Now we have all the information in black and white. It saved a lot of time and ultimately will result in a better analytical instrument.”

Chromalytica’s measurements were performed at beamline I3 at MAX IV. At the experimental station, scientists have access to very high-intensity UV light whose wavelength can be controlled with extremely high accuracy. This allows for very accurate measurements of the properties of various substances, such as surfaces or nanoparticles. It is also possible to test sensitive instruments – the purpose of Chromalytica’s research.