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Funded Studies

Defining a PD-specific breath fingerprint of underlying 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 more invasive tests, a tool for routine interval screening of high-risk patients, and a tool for tracking the efficacy of investigational or clinical treatments.  Breath sampling requires only a few minutes of a subject’s time with minimal required effort or training, therefore making it an ideal and inexpensive screening tool.  We have conducted breath analysis studies in subjects 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, lung cancer with 75% accuracy, and we can differentiate between the two with 88% accuracy.

BVOCs are representative of volatile blood biomarkers, many of which are inflammatory biomarkers. We will apply this technology to identify a PD-specific breath fingerprint of underlying inflammatory and neurodegenerative processes.


We hypothesize that breath volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) fingerprinting can enable sensitive and specific measures of ongoing 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 breath samples in 50 non-smoking early-stage PD patients and 50 healthy, age and sex-matched control subjects.  The collected samples will be subjected to using mass spectrometry to investigate differences in inflammatory and neurodegenerative markers between the control and PD patient population.  Using 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 should provide an inexpensive non-invasive tool for identifying PD patients with inflammation, tracking progression of disease, and responsiveness to various therapeutic interventions, in particular 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 ascertain 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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