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Funded Studies

Defining a Parkinson's Disease-specific Breath Fingerprint of Inflammatory and Neurodegenerative Processes

Study Rationale:
Breath analysis has the potential to be a powerful non-invasive screening tool to help a clinician determine the need for additional tests, a tool for routine interval screening of high-risk individuals and a tool for tracking the efficacy of investigational or clinical treatments. Breath sampling requires only a few minutes of a person's time with minimal required effort or training, therefore making it an ideal and inexpensive screening tool. We have conducted breath analysis studies in individuals with breast and lung cancer using a high-sensitivity analytical platform. Analyses of breath volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) enables us to detect breast cancer with 95% accuracy and lung cancer with 75% accuracy; we can also differentiate between the two with 88% accuracy. BVOCs are representative of volatile blood biomarkers (markers of disease activity), many of which are inflammatory biomarkers. We will apply this technology to identify a Parkinson's disease (PD)-specific breath fingerprint of inflammatory and neurodegenerative processes.

We hypothesize that BVOC fingerprinting can enable sensitive and specific measures of inflammation and other processes implicated in the development and/or progression of PD and thus could represent an early detection tool.

Study Design:
We will collect alveolar (lung) breath samples in 50 non-smoking individuals with early-stage PD and 50 healthy, age and sex-matched participants. The collected samples will be subjected to mass spectrometry (technique that sorts chemicals) to investigate differences in inflammatory and neurodegenerative markers between those with PD and those without PD. Statistical pattern recognition strategies will be applied to the analysis of collected BVOCs to define a unique inflammatory PD-specific breath fingerprint. The breath fingerprint will be analyzed for its disease-predictive and disease-monitoring ability in combination with blood analyses of conventional or newly discovered biomarkers.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson's Disease:
A PD-specific breath signature would provide an inexpensive, non-invasive tool for identifying those with PD based on inflammation, tracking progression of disease and responsiveness to various therapeutic interventions, specifically anti-inflammatory or immunomodulatory therapies.

Next Steps for Development:
This work will lay the foundation for future studies in which breath fingerprinting could be used as a screening technique to determine risk for PD or other neurodegenerative diseases in the earliest stages prior to the occurrence of significant neuron loss and motor symptoms.


  • Malú G. Tansey, PhD

    Gainesville, FL United States

  • Charlene Warres Bayer, PhD

    Marietta, GA United States

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