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Exhaled molecular profiles in the assessment of cystic fibrosis and primary ciliary dyskinesia

  • Researchers

    Paff T, van der Schee MP, Daniels JM, Pals G, Postmus PE, Sterk PJ, Haarman EG.

  • Place of research

    VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Publication

    Journal of Cystic Fibrosis / January 2013

  • Subjects


  • Does exhaled breath from children with cystic fibrosis (CF) and primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) have a distinctive smell as determined by an electronic nose?

  • Why is this important?

    Everyone continuously exhales small particles that originate from processes occurring inside the body. These particles are called “Volatile Organic Compounds” (VOCs). Patients with CF and PCD suffer from frequent respiratory exacerbations that cause permanent lung damage. Early detection of exacerbations might be possible by analysing exhaled breath.

  • What did you do?

    We collected breath samples from healthy children, children with CF and children with PCD. Breath samples were directly analysed by an electronic nose. The electronic nose provides a unique breathprint for every sample it “smells”. We compared the breathprints of all groups to see whether patients and controls have a distinct exhaled breath profile.

  • What did you find?

    We observed that patients with CF and PCD had a distinct breathprint, compared to healthy children and compared to one another. In addition, a small group of patients with an exacerbation showed a different breathprint compared to patients with a stable respiratory disease state.

  • What does this mean and reasons for caution?

    This means that, compared to healthy children, patients with CF and PCD exhale different compounds that can be detected by an electronic nose. However, this detection is not yet good enough for clinical application. In addition, further studies are required to identify the specific VOCs responsible for the difference between these diseases and during an exacerbation.

  • What's next?

    A study during which we will collect exhaled breath from the same patients with CF and PCD during one year and compare breathprints collected during stable respiratory disease state and during an exacerbation. Also, a new e-nose platform with 4 different electronic noses and a technique that identifies specific VOCs (GC-MS), will be used to analyse patients breath.