Is a diabetic breath test on the horizon?

15 August 2016

One of the most intriguing questions surrounding support dogs for people with diabetes is how they are able to detect when their owner has low blood-sugar levels and may be at risk of a hypoglycaemic attack.  It seems that scientists have managed to pinpoint the chemical that dogs pick up on, which could have terrific implications for the people living with diabetes and health professionals in the future.

After conducting an experiment that involved lowering the blood sugar levels of eight women with type 1 diabetes, scientists found that isoprene is the chemical found in human breath that alerts dogs to any concerns.  Isoprene is a common natural chemical found in human breath and could be the key to a major medical breakthrough.

Anyone with diabetes will tell you that daily blood sugar tests are a pain (most often in the finger), and would promptly offer a sigh of relief at the prospect of doing away with this annoyance.  It seems that the technology may be available in the near future to simply perform a breath test, similar to those used to detect alcohol, to measure a person’s isoprene levels.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a wearable device that can detect lowered levels in real time – similar to the function that the dogs are currently providing.  This would be a far easier and more effective measure for everyday use and is just one of the ways that technology is working to make the lives of people with health issues easier.