Breath analysis via mass spectrometry

Exhaled air contains thousands of volatile components, usually in minute concentrations. These substances can be detected using specifically adapted mass spectrometry devices. This research is being conducted in close collaboration with ETH Zurich.

We have created a database with respiratory profiles of healthy subjects and patients with various pulmonary diseases such as COPD, cystic fibrosis and obstructive sleep apnea. The objective is to compare the respiratory profiles and determine if diseases can be diagnosed via exhaled air. This is especially significant for the development of new diagnostic tests. Breath analysis is safe and non-invasive, making it a highly attractive clinical test.

Breath analysis in healthy subjects

For this study, we are looking for male and female non-smokers, smokers and former smokers aged between 18 and 75. They should not be suffering from any known lung disease.

Included in the study is a free lung function test including an explanation of the findings. Afterwards, a breath analysis is performed and you must exhale into a mass spectrometer. (Total time: two appointments, each approximately 15 minutes)

The study is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Download a PDF with more information on the study.

Breath analysis in patients

We currently perform breath gas analyzes on patients with COPD, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis and obstructive sleep apnea.

If you are interested in participating in a research project, we would be pleased to send you more detailed information. Please feel free to contact us at any time via the address provided.

Current projects

TitleEthical approval numberClinical trial Registration
Breath analysis (with healthy subjects)2015-0187
Breath analysis in lung cancer
​Breath analysis in obstructive sleep apnoea


Tel +41 44 255 17 43
Fax +41 44 255 44 51

Team USZ

Professor Malcolm Kohler, MD, Director of Department
Sira Thiel, MD, Doctorand
Dr Thomas Gaisl, MD, Research fellow
Martin Osswald, Doctoral student
Lisa Marxt, Research assistant

Team ETH Zurich

Professor Renato Zenobi, MD, ETH Professor of Organic Chemistry
Martin Gaugg, MSc, Doctorand
Nora Nowak, MSc, Doctorand

Contact address

Department of Pulmonology
Professor Malcolm Kohler, MD
University Hospital Zurich
Rämistrasse 100
8091 Zurich

Last update: 15.05.2018 | Person responsible:
Professor Malcolm Kohler, MD