Diabetic patients could have their daily routine revolutionised with a painless breath test to replace taking blood.
The test has been devised by a team of scientists at Cambridge University, and could mean that the 400,000 people like with Type 1 diabetes in the UK no longer have to prick their finger and draw blood.
The NHS says that 10% of diabetes sufferers in the UK are Type 1, meaning that the patient's pancreas doesn't produce insulin - the hormone that regulates blood glucose levels.
Due to the low insulin levels, Type 1 Diabetics need to take daily blood sugar levels to monitor their condition, or risk falling into a hyperglycemic (sugar levels too high) or hypoglycemic (sugar levels are too low) state.
Scientists have been working to learn more about Isoprene, the chemical that dogs detect when owners are about to suffer a hypoglycemic attack.
During experiments the team managed to isolate the Isoprene chemical and therefore are now theoretically able to screen human breath using a special tool.
Doctor Mark Evans, Consultant at Addenbrooke’s hospital, University of Cambridge said: “Isoprene is one of the commonest natural chemicals that we find in human breath, but we know surprisingly little about where it comes from."
Humans aren’t sensitive to the presence of Isoprene in the same way as dogs but scientists suspect that Isoprene is a by-product of the production of cholesterol.
Although Doctor Evans adds that it isn’t clear why the chemical levels rise when patients get low blood sugar levels.
Diabetes is a growing problem worldwide, alongside the obesity epidemic. The NHS reports that in 2011, around 366 million people have diabetes, and this is expected to grow to 552 million by 2030.