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Title: Analysis of volatile organic compounds in breath as a potential diagnostic modality in disease monitoring
Author: Patel, Mitesh Kantilal
ISNI:       0000 0004 2730 934X
Awarding Body: Cranfield University
Current Institution: Cranfield University
Date of Award: 2011
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The use of breath odours in medical diagnosis dates back to classical times, though in its modern form the technique is only a few decades old. There are several breath tests in common clinical use, though all of them involve administration of a known or labelled exogenous compound. More recently, over the last twenty years, interest has focussed on analysis of endogenous metabolites in breath, but despite a large number of published studies reporting a number of disease markers, there has been little or no impact on clinical practice. Nonetheless, breath analysis offers a number of potential advantages over current biochemical methods. One major advantage of breath analysis is its non-invasive nature, which has led to significant interest in its use at point-of care for monitoring chronic diseases such as diabetes and the chronic infections ubiquitous in cystic fibrosis. However, breath analysis classically involves the use of expensive laboratory based analytical equipment which requires extensively-trained personnel and which cannot readily be miniaturised. Systems based on simple gas sensors might offer a way of overcoming these limitations. In recent years, Cranfield University has developed an instrument called the single metal oxide sensor gas analyser (SMOS-GA, more commonly referred to as the “Breathotron”) as a proof of concept for sensor-based breath analysis. In this project the Breathotron has been used in conjunction with selected ion flow tube mass spectrometry (SIFT-MS) and thermal desorption gas chromatography mass spectrometry (TD-GC-MS) to determine the changes in the concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in breath in a number of experimental situations which a relevant to the diagnostic monitoring of diabetes mellitus. Studies conducted on clinically healthy volunteers were: an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT); a six minute treadmill walking test; and a bicycle ergometer test. Additionally Breathotron and analytical data were also obtained during a hypoglycaemic clamp study carried out on hypoglycaemia-unaware Type I diabetics. The principle breath volatiles determined analytically were: acetone, acetaldehyde, ammonia isoprene though data on a number of others was also available. In general, it proved difficult to establish any reproducible relationship between the concentration of any compound measured and blood glucose concentration any of the experimental interventions. It was notable, though, that statistically significant associations were observed occasionally in data from individual volunteers, but even these were not reproduced in those trials which involved repeated measurements. This remained true even where spirometry data were used to derive VOC clearance rates. This may explain previous reports from smaller studies of an association between glucose and breath acetone concentration. It seems probable that any experimentally-induced changes in breath VOC concentration or clearance were of much smaller magnitude than background variability and was consequently not detectable. These observations were mirrored in the sensor-derived results. Multivariate analysis across all trials where Breathotron data were obtained suggested clustering by individual volunteer rather than glycaemic status. This suggests that that there exists a “background” breath volatile composition, dependent perhaps on such factors as long-term diet, which is independent of our experimental intervention. The Breathotron was also used as a platform to assess the performance of three different types of mixed metal oxide sensor in vitro. Calibration curves were generated for acetone, ammonia and propanol covering the physiological range of concentrations and with a similar water content to breath. Close correlations were obtained between concentration and the amplitude of the sensor response. Sensor response reproducibility was also determined using acetone at a concentration of 10ppm with dry and humidified test gas. There were significant differences between sensor types in overall reproducibility and in response to humidity. These results suggest that had there been substantial changes in breath VOC composition as a result of our experimental interventions, any of the types of sensor used would have been capable of responding to them. In summary, these results do not support the efficacy of breath VOC analysis as a means of non-invasive diagnostic monitoring.
Supervisor: Walton, Christopher Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Breathotron ; diabetes ; gas sensor ; GC-MS ; SIFT-MS