Mark Woollam at the Breath Biopsy Conference 2022
(16 mins) EARLY CAREERS: Canine-Inspired Identification of Exhaled Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Biomarkers of Disease by Solid Phase Microextraction coupled to Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
Canines can detect an array of medical conditions just by smelling volatile organic compound (VOC) biomarkers noninvasively expressed in breath samples. Breath biopsies represent an emerging frontier in noninvasive health monitoring, as breath contains a wide range of VOCs and is virtually unlimited in nature. Our group has focused on using solid phase microextraction (SPME) coupled to gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to identify VOCs associated with clinical traits of diabetes and cystic fibrosis. Breath samples in these studies were collected into Tedlar bags, cryothermally transferred to headspace vials using a vacuum, and stored at -80 ℃. After SPME GC-MS, the data was spectrally aligned, screened for the removal of artifacts and analyzed using univariate and multivariate chemometrics. Results thus far showed that a biosignature of six volatile analytes could distinguish hypoglycemic events in patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Diagnostic accuracy was validated in a large sample cohort with over 200 subjects, and showed the VOCs could predict hypoglycemia with sensitivity and specificity > 90%. On the other hand, preliminary data from cystic fibrosis patients showed that aldehydes (octanal and nonanal) were downregulated in subjects taking a highly effective modulator therapy. Hydrocarbons were dysregulated in patients undergoing pulmonary exacerbations, and 3,7-dimethyldecane was correlated with forced expiratory volume in one second. VOC biomarker identification in these studies can inspire the development of a noninvasive, rapid and portable integrated nanosensor array that has the ability to detect hypoglycemic events in patients with diabetes, and monitor baseline pulmonary health in cystic fibrosis patients.
Mark Woollam is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute at Indiana University-Purdue University (IUPUI) focusing on developing new methods to sample and identify volatile organic compound (VOC) biomarkers in breath. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2017 and joined IUPUI in the same year for his doctoral studies in the field of bioanalytical chemistry. Woollam completed his PhD recently in the summer of 2022, where he concentrated on utilizing chemometric approaches to identify VOC biomarkers for prostate cancer, breast cancer, hypoglycemia, COVID-19 and clinical traits of cystic fibrosis. His overarching research interest is utilizing analytical chemistry to identify volatile biomarkers of disease in noninvasive biological sample types and developing novel analytical methods to enhance the detection of them.
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