BodyTechnic: Smelling a diagnosis...

If the word breathalyser conjures up pictures of a late-night motorway encounter with the police -- think again. In the next century these sinister instruments may serve as a diagnostic device for both doctors and patients.

In partnership with Imperial College, London-based Kiotech International, a commercial odour biotechnology firm, has launched a company called Boditech to develop instruments that diagnose a range of medical conditions using breath and body odour. Data is sent from the instrument to either a Psion PDA or a Windows based PC.

Although still in the early stages of development, Boditech predicts wide application for the devices -- in hospitals, GPs surgeries and the home.

Main uses will be to monitor conditions such as asthma and diabetes. For asthma patients the "breathalyser" will give a warning of an impending attack probably by breath analysis. According to Tony Cass, biochemist at Imperial College, there are several conditions including liver and kidney disease that will eventually be spotted by the breathalyser.

Boditech is unwilling to disclose the exact nature of the technology but it is believed to be a combination of signal processing (probably using a DSP), molecular design and analytical instrumentation.

Boditech hopes to produce the first prototype within 2 years with commercially available instruments by 2002. Details of how the product will look and specific applications for use will not be available until next year.

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