Bruce Johnson at BBCon 2023

Volatile Organic Compounds in Exhaled Breath Reflect Physiological Changes in Ultramarathon Runners.


00:00 ‘Volatile Organic Compounds in Exhaled Breath Reflect Physiological Changes in Ultramarathon Runners’
12:40 Question and Answer Session


Talk Abstract:

Exhaustive exercise can induce lung impairment and various physiological reactions in the human body. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are exchanged between breath and circulating blood in the lung alveoli, making them ideal non-invasive biomarkers for better understanding the effects of exhaustive exercise on the lungs and other parts of the body. Currently, only a few studies have utilized breath VOCs to investigate the effects of exhaustive exercise on physiological changes, and no research has explored breath VOC changes in the context of running an ultramarathon, which takes roughly 40 hours to complete.

To identify potential breath biomarkers of exhaustive exercise, we collected breath samples from 24 participants in the 2019 Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) ultra-marathon before and after the race. All 48 samples underwent analysis using the Breath Biopsy Platform included with the Thermo Fisher GC-Orbitrap™ via TD-GC-MS. The Wilcoxon signed rank test, followed by the Benjamini– Hochberg False Discovery Rate (p < 0.05) was used to determine whether the breath VOC abundances differed before and after the race. Of the 793 VOCs identified in the breath samples, 63 showed significant differences between pre- and post-race samples (12 decreased, 51 increased). Tentatively identified VOCs indicate the involvement of fatty acid oxidation, inflammation, and possible altered gut microbiome activity in response to exhaustive exercise. These findings suggest significant changes in VOC abundance as a result of exhaustive exercise. Further investigations incorporating diverse physiological measurements are crucial for understanding the VOC biological associations in exhaustive exercise.

Authors: Hsuan Chou1, Kayleigh Arthur1, Elen Shaw1, Chad Schaber1, Billy Boyle1, Max Allsworth1, Eli F. Kelley2, Glenn M. Stewart2,3, Courtney M. Wheatley4, Jesse Schwartz2, Catlin C. Fermoyle2,5, Briana L. Ziegler2, Kay A. Johnson2, Paul Robach6, Patrick Basset7, Bruce D. Johnson2

1Owlstone Medical, Cambridge, UK; 2Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, USA; 3Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Brisbane, AUS; 4Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, USA; 5Utah Vascular Research Laboratory, Salt Lake City, USA; 6Ecole Nationale des Sports de Montagne, Chamonix, FR; 7Ultra Sports Science Foundation, Grenoble, FR.

Speaker Biography:

Bruce Johnson is a Professor of Medicine and Physiology at Mayo Clinic and Directs the Human Integrative and Environmental Physiology Laboratory as well as the institutional Energy Balance Core Laboratory. He pursues studies in clinical, environmental and human performance physiology with a general interest in the limits of human performance and adaptation to unique environments.



The Breath Biopsy Conference 2024 is scheduled for 4th and 5th November. Click the button to express interest in the next Breath Biopsy Conference: