The Breath Sampler is a device that can be used to collect breath samples. The Breath Sampler can collect Exhaled Breath Condensate (EBC) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). Specific samples can also be collected from the major and minor airways (e.g. alveoli), which is extremely useful because some diseases primarily impact the small airways only.

Why do we need it?

EBC and VOC contain substances that can help explain disease progression in our lungs, airways and other organs. Doctors prefer to diagnose airway inflammation – the source of pulmonary disorders like asthma, cystic fibrosis and COPD – in the most efficient and patient-friendly way, and these samples make it possible by identifying the biomarkers linked to a specific inflammation. Doctors are also interested in determining the effects of monitoring and treating diseases like cystic fibrosis in a regular and non-invasive way.

What are the advantages?

A bronchoscopy under general anaesthesia is currently the most invasive way to determine certain pulmonary diseases and measure the extent of inflammation in children. Doctors are eagerly awaiting a non-invasive way to measure this and the Breath Sampler provides just that.

The newly developed Breath Sampler is a compact, sophisticated version of the earlier EBC sampler which was the size of an icebox. The new version is much more user-friendly, which means one day it might be suitable for use by general practitioners. Its small size also makes it easier to clean and transport. And finally, it can measure both EBC and VOC samples given the right pressure, temperature and volume.

Any additional features?

The original plan was to develop two separate devices, but it was easier to apply two techniques to one device with one measurement instead.

What do we think?

“The prototype is now ‘patient-proof’ and is being tested by the researchers. No device is ever really finished though,” project leader Bart Beulen and designer Pascal Huysmans explain.