The One That Gut Away: New Article by Owlstone Scientist Published in IBI Magazine

Published on: 20 Apr 2023, under Gut & Digestion

We’re delighted to see an article authored by our biomarker scientist Dr. Tina Chou published in the Spring edition of the International Biopharmaceutical Industry magazine. The article, entitled ‘The One That Gut Away – Measuring Microbial VOCs from Breath’, explores how breath-based volatile organic compound (VOC) biomarkers can shed light on the inner microbial workings of the gastrointestinal tract. Dr. Chou’s article also highlights several fascinating case studies that illustrate the novel perspectives that breath VOC analysis can bring to gut microbiome research.

Historically, research on the gut microbiome has primarily been conducted on fecal samples, aiming to identify and quantify microbial inhabitants of the gastrointestinal tract and define their roles in health and disease. Although fecal sampling and analysis provide insight into the presence of microbial species, it cannot provide real-time data on active microbial metabolism as the components of feces may reflect activity from up to 48 hours prior. VOCs produced in the gut can travel to the lungs through the circulatory system to be exhaled in breath, offering a dynamic, real-time picture of microbial metabolism.

This article highlights that breath VOCs are an incredibly powerful tool. When paired with fecal metagenomics, analysis of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) on breath has enabled the identification of correlations between acetate and propionate to Bifidobacteria in active and inactive Crohn’s disease (CD), as well as relationships between inflammation-associated VOCs and specific bacterial species in active CD. Although the link between the gut microbiome and CD is relatively well-established, novel observations will be instrumental in deepening our understanding of this disease to drive improved treatment and management for patients.

The relationship between the gut microbiome and liver disease is also spotlighted in this article, with a particular focus on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The development of portable high-sensitivity sampling devices (akin to those used in analytical laboratories) for use at home has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of liver diseases like NAFLD and NASH, particularly identifying patients for whom certain medications may be less effective.

The trillions of microbes that symbiotically inhabit our gastrointestinal tracts and their metabolic by-products have been associated with a wide range of health and disease effects, from digestive disorders to cardiometabolic disease, and even certain cancers. Breath VOC research offers a non-invasive, real-time insight into gut microbial activity, and here at Owlstone Medical, we believe that exploring exhaled VOC compounds has the potential to revolutionize the diagnosis, treatment, and management of disease and help reduce healthcare costs worldwide. If you are interested in learning more about how the gut microbiome is associated with exhaled VOCs, you can read Dr. Chou’s article here.

Together we can unlock new insights into the gut microbiome

From microbially-derived SCFAs to inflammation VOC biomarkers like pentane and octane, we are experts in identifying breath VOCs. Our Breath Biopsy® OMNI® platform is the most advanced solution for reliable breath biomarker analysis, bolstered by personalized support with study design, management, and data interpretation. Working with us also grants access to our Breath Biopsy VOC Atlas, a comprehensive catalog of over 150 VOCs identified on breath, including SCFAs and products of aromatic amino acid breakdown. Get in touch today to enhance your gut microbiome research with breath-based insights.

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