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April 9, 2013

'Breathprints' offer clues about what makes you who you are

What makes your body different from everyone else's?

Maybe you're thinking fingerprints or the DNA that you leave on everything you touch. Now, add your breath to that list.

Researchers have found that individuals have unique "breathprints" that change throughout the day and that reflect chemical reactions in the body.

In a study reported last week in the journal PLoS One, volunteers blew air into a mass spectrometer, an instrument that can measure the masses and relative concentrations of atoms and molecules. The device split the exhalation into its chemical components.

Unlike older methods, which required samples to be prepared and then injected into the machine, the device used in this study can directly accept breath and show the results in seconds.

The researchers found that individuals' breathprints changed slightly from sample to sample, but they always kept a core signature that was unique enough to identify that person.

That means that a breathprint reflects what's going on in a person's body and isn't just a random sampling of room air, researchers concluded. In the future, the authors say, such analysis might reveal the drugs you've been taking or biomarkers of diseases such as cancer.

Smaller versions of the machine may someday make their way into doctors' offices and could be used to detect doping at races without sending samples to a lab.

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The Iowegian wants readers to think about the solicitation ordinance that will prevent groups or individuals from entering a roadway to solicit money. The Centerville City Council in June by a 5-0 vote passed the first reading of just such an ordinance. Public pressure and during a subsequent special meeting, the council voted 3-2 to table the ordinance. A second special meeting to discuss the solicitation ordinance is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7 at City Hall. So, the question of the week is, "Do you or do you not support the ordinance to prevent solicitation of funds in city streets?"

A. I support the ordinance
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