In a development that may very well change the lives of millions of diabetics worldwide, UC Irvine scientists are testing the levels of methyl nitrates in exhaled air as a marker for elevated blood sugar levels.
By using a chemical analysis method developed for air-pollution testing, UC Irvine chemists and pediatricians have found that children with type-1 diabetes exhale significantly higher concentrations of methyl nitrates when they are hyperglycemic.
The study heralds the potential of a breath device that can warn diabetics of high blood sugar levels and of the need for insulin. Currently, diabetics monitor blood sugar levels using devices that break the skin to attain a small blood sample. Hyperglycemia is common in type-1 diabetes mellitus.
Study results appear this week in the early online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Breath analysis has been showing promise as a diagnostic tool in a number of clinical areas, such as with ulcers and cystic fibrosis,” said Dr. Pietro Galassetti, a diabetes researcher with the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) at UC Irvine. “While no clinical breath test yet exists for diabetes, this study shows the possibility of non-invasive methods that can help the millions who have this chronic disease.”
In the study, Galassetti, Dr. Dan Cooper and Andria Pontello of the GCRC conducted breath-analysis testing on 10 children with type-1 diabetes mellitus. The researchers took air samples during a hyperglycemic state and progressively as they increased the children’s blood insulin levels.