The electronic nose in respiratory medicine

Respiration. 2013;85(1):72-84. doi: 10.1159/000340044. Epub 2012 Sep 25.


Several volatile organic compounds have been identified in exhaled breath in healthy subjects and patients with respiratory diseases by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Identification of selective patterns of volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath could be used as a biomarker of inflammatory lung diseases. An electronic nose (e-nose) is an artificial sensor system that generally consists of an array of chemical sensors for detection of volatile organic compound profiles (breathprints) and an algorithm for pattern recognition. E-noses are handheld, portable devices that provide immediate results. E-noses discriminate between patients with respiratory disease, including asthma, COPD and lung cancer, and healthy control subjects, and also among patients with different respiratory diseases. E-nose breathprints are associated with airway inflammation activity. In combination with other 'omics' platforms, e-nose technology might contribute to the identification of new surrogate markers of pulmonary inflammation and subphenotypes of patients with respiratory diseases, provide a molecular basis to a personalized pharmacological treatment, and facilitate the development of new drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Nose*
  • Humans
  • Pulmonary Medicine / methods*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / rehabilitation*