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Concept: Volatile organic compound


We report on an artificially intelligent nanoarray based on molecularly modified gold nanoparticles and a random network of single-walled carbon nanotubes for noninvasive diagnosis and classification of a number of diseases from exhaled breath. The performance of this artificially intelligent nanoarray was clinically assessed on breath samples collected from 1404 subjects having one of 17 different disease conditions included in the study or having no evidence of any disease (healthy controls). Blind experiments showed that 86% accuracy could be achieved with the artificially intelligent nanoarray, allowing both detection and discrimination between the different disease conditions examined. Analysis of the artificially intelligent nanoarray also showed that each disease has its own unique breathprint, and that the presence of one disease would not screen out others. Cluster analysis showed a reasonable classification power of diseases from the same categories. The effect of confounding clinical and environmental factors on the performance of the nanoarray did not significantly alter the obtained results. The diagnosis and classification power of the nanoarray was also validated by an independent analytical technique, i.e., gas chromatography linked with mass spectrometry. This analysis found that 13 exhaled chemical species, called volatile organic compounds, are associated with certain diseases, and the composition of this assembly of volatile organic compounds differs from one disease to another. Overall, these findings could contribute to one of the most important criteria for successful health intervention in the modern era, viz. easy-to-use, inexpensive (affordable), and miniaturized tools that could also be used for personalized screening, diagnosis, and follow-up of a number of diseases, which can clearly be extended by further development.

Concepts: Medicine, Cancer, Medical terms, Chemistry, Carbon, Carbon nanotube, Machine learning, Volatile organic compound


Human beings continuously emit chemicals into the air by breath and through the skin. In order to determine whether these emissions vary predictably in response to audiovisual stimuli, we have continuously monitored carbon dioxide and over one hundred volatile organic compounds in a cinema. It was found that many airborne chemicals in cinema air varied distinctively and reproducibly with time for a particular film, even in different screenings to different audiences. Application of scene labels and advanced data mining methods revealed that specific film events, namely “suspense” or “comedy” caused audiences to change their emission of specific chemicals. These event-type synchronous, broadcasted human chemosignals open the possibility for objective and non-invasive assessment of a human group response to stimuli by continuous measurement of chemicals in air. Such methods can be applied to research fields such as psychology and biology, and be valuable to industries such as film making and advertising.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Species, Carbon, Chemical compound, Volatile organic compound, Film, Film director


BACKGROUND: Non-invasive phenotyping of chronic respiratory diseases would be highly beneficial in the personalised medicine of the future. Volatile organic compounds can be measured in the exhaled breath and may be produced or altered by disease processes. We investigated whether distinct patterns of these compounds were present in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and clinically relevant disease phenotypes. METHODS: Breath samples from 39 COPD subjects and 32 healthy controls were collected and analysed using gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Subjects with COPD also underwent sputum induction. Discriminatory compounds were identified by univariate logistic regression followed by multivariate analysis: 1. principal component analysis; 2. multivariate logistic regression; 3. receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis. RESULTS: Comparing COPD versus healthy controls, principal component analysis clustered the 20 best-discriminating compounds into four components explaining 71% of the variance. Multivariate logistic regression constructed an optimised model using two components with an accuracy of 69%. The model had 85% sensitivity, 50% specificity and ROC area under the curve of 0.74. Analysis of COPD subgroups showed the method could classify COPD subjects with far greater accuracy. Models were constructed which classified subjects with [GREATER-THAN OR EQUAL TO]2% sputum eosinophilia with ROC area under the curve of 0.94 and those having frequent exacerbations 0.95. Potential biomarkers correlated to clinical variables were identified in each subgroup. CONCLUSION: The exhaled breath volatile organic compound profile discriminated between COPD and healthy controls and identified clinically relevant COPD subgroups. If these findings are validated in prospective cohorts, they may have diagnostic and management value in this disease.

Concepts: Medicine, Asthma, Pneumonia, Multivariate statistics, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Volatile organic compound, Organic compounds, Linear discriminant analysis


Sensory effects in eyes and airways are common symptoms reported by aircraft crew and office workers. Neurological symptoms, such as headache, have also been reported. To assess the commonality and differences in exposures and health symptoms, a literature search of aircraft cabin and office air concentrations of non-reactive volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone-initiated terpene reaction products were compiled and assessed. Data for tricresyl phosphates, in particular tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate (ToCP), were also compiled, as well as information on other risk factors such as low relative humidity. A conservative health risk assessment for eye, airway and neurological effects was undertaken based on a “worst-case scenario” which assumed a simultaneous constant exposure for 8h to identified maximum concentrations in aircraft and offices. This used guidelines and reference values for sensory irritation for eyes and upper airways and airflow limitation; a tolerable daily intake value was used for ToCP. The assessment involved the use of hazard quotients or indexes, defined as the summed ratio(s) (%) of compound concentration(s) divided by their guideline value(s). The concentration data suggest that, under the assumption of a conservative “worst-case scenario”, aircraft air and office concentrations of the compounds in question are not likely to be associated with sensory symptoms in eyes and airways. This is supported by the fact that maximum concentrations are, in general, associated with infrequent incidents and brief exposures. Sensory symptoms, in particular in eyes, appear to be exacerbated by environmental and occupational conditions that differ in aircraft and offices, e.g., ozone incidents, low relative humidity, low cabin pressure, and visual display unit work. The data do not support airflow limitation effects. For ToCP, in view of the conservative approach adopted here and the rareness of reported incidents, the health risk of exposure to this compound in aircraft is considered negligible.

Concepts: Evaluation, Risk, Assessment, Humidity, Relative humidity, Volatile organic compound, Tricresyl phosphate, Cabin pressurization


A gap in emission inventories of urban volatile organic compound (VOC) sources, which contribute to regional ozone and aerosol burdens, has increased as transportation emissions in the United States and Europe have declined rapidly. A detailed mass balance demonstrates that the use of volatile chemical products (VCPs)-including pesticides, coatings, printing inks, adhesives, cleaning agents, and personal care products-now constitutes half of fossil fuel VOC emissions in industrialized cities. The high fraction of VCP emissions is consistent with observed urban outdoor and indoor air measurements. We show that human exposure to carbonaceous aerosols of fossil origin is transitioning away from transportation-related sources and toward VCPs. Existing U.S. regulations on VCPs emphasize mitigating ozone and air toxics, but they currently exempt many chemicals that lead to secondary organic aerosols.

Concepts: United States, Chemistry, Chemical substance, Carbon, Particulate, Volatile organic compound, Global warming, Ozone


In this study, a validated method using a thermal desorber combined with a gas chromatograph coupled to mass spectrometry was used to identify the volatile organic compounds released during decomposition of 6 human and 26 animal remains in a laboratory environment during a period of 6 months. 452 compounds were identified. Among them a human specific marker was sought using principle component analysis. We found a combination of 8 compounds (ethyl propionate, propyl propionate, propyl butyrate, ethyl pentanoate, pyridine, diethyl disulfide, methyl(methylthio)ethyl disulfide and 3-methylthio-1-propanol) that led to the distinction of human and pig remains from other animal remains. Furthermore, it was possible to separate the pig remains from human remains based on 5 esters (3-methylbutyl pentanoate, 3-methylbutyl 3-methylbutyrate, 3-methylbutyl 2-methylbutyrate, butyl pentanoate and propyl hexanoate). Further research in the field with full bodies has to corroborate these results and search for one or more human specific markers. These markers would allow a more efficiently training of cadaver dogs or portable detection devices could be developed.

Concepts: Functional groups, Volatile organic compound, Alkyl, Ethyl butyrate


There is an urgent need to understand the safety of e-cigarettes with adolescents. We sought to identify the presence of chemical toxicants associated with e-cigarette use among adolescents.

Concepts: Chemistry, Volatile organic compound, Organic compounds


The climate impact of deforestation depends on the relative strength of several biogeochemical and biogeophysical effects. In addition to affecting the exchange of carbon dioxide (CO2) and moisture with the atmosphere and surface albedo, vegetation emits biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) that alter the formation of short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs), which include aerosol, ozone and methane. Here we show that a scenario of complete global deforestation results in a net positive radiative forcing (RF; 0.12 W m-2) from SLCFs, with the negative RF from decreases in ozone and methane concentrations partially offsetting the positive aerosol RF. Combining RFs due to CO2, surface albedo and SLCFs suggests that global deforestation could cause 0.8 K warming after 100 years, with SLCFs contributing 8% of the effect. However, deforestation as projected by the RCP8.5 scenario leads to zero net RF from SLCF, primarily due to nonlinearities in the aerosol indirect effect.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Carbon, Volatile organic compound, Methane, Greenhouse gas, Global warming, Deforestation


Viral infections are ubiquitous in humans, animals, and plants. Real-time methods to identify viral infections are limited and do not exist for use in harsh or resource-constrained environments. Previous research identified that tissues produce unique volatile organic compounds (VOC) and demonstrated that VOC concentrations change during pathologic states, including infection, neoplasia, or metabolic disease. Patterns of VOC expression may be pathogen specific and may be associated with an odor that could be used for disease detection. We investigated the ability of two trained dogs to detect cell cultures infected with bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) and to discriminate BVDV-infected cell cultures from uninfected cell cultures and from cell cultures infected with bovine herpes virus 1 (BHV 1) and bovine parainfluenza virus 3 (BPIV 3). Dogs were trained to recognize cell cultures infected with two different biotypes of BVDV propagated in Madin-Darby bovine kidney cells using one of three culture media. For detection trials, one target and seven distractors were presented on a scent wheel by a dog handler unaware of the location of targets and distractors. Detection of BVDV-infected cell cultures by Dog 1 had a diagnostic sensitivity of 0.850 (95% CI: 0.701-0.942), which was lower than Dog 2 (0.967, 95% CI: 0.837-0.994). Both dogs exhibited very high diagnostic specificity (0.981, 95% CI: 0.960-0.993) and (0.993, 95% CI: 0.975-0.999), respectively. These findings demonstrate that trained dogs can differentiate between cultured cells infected with BVDV, BHV1, and BPIV3 and are a realistic real-time mobile pathogen sensing technology for viral pathogens. The ability to discriminate between target and distractor samples plausibly results from expression of unique VOC patterns in virus-infected and -uninfected cells.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Bacteria, Microbiology, Infection, Cell culture, Volatile organic compound, Dog


Large-scale oil production from oil sands deposits in Alberta, Canada has raised concerns about environmental impacts, such as the magnitude of air pollution emissions. This paper reports compound emission rates (E) for 69-89 nonbiogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for each of four surface mining facilities, determined with a top-down approach using aircraft measurements in the summer of 2013. The aggregate emission rate (aE) of the nonbiogenic VOCs ranged from 50 ± 14 to 70 ± 22 t/d depending on the facility. In comparison, equivalent VOC emission rates reported to the Canadian National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) using accepted estimation methods were lower than the aE values by factors of 2.0 ± 0.6, 3.1 ± 1.1, 4.5 ± 1.5, and 4.1 ± 1.6 for the four facilities, indicating underestimation in the reported VOC emissions. For 11 of the combined 93 VOC species reported by all four facilities, the reported emission rate and E were similar; but for the other 82 species, the reported emission rate was lower than E The median ratio of E to that reported for all species by a facility ranged from 4.5 to 375 depending on the facility. Moreover, between 9 and 53 VOCs, for which there are existing reporting requirements to the NPRI, were not included in the facility emission reports. The comparisons between the emission reports and measurement-based emission rates indicate that improvements to VOC emission estimation methods would enhance the accuracy and completeness of emission estimates and their applicability to environmental impact assessments of oil sands developments.

Concepts: Alberta, Pollution, Smog, Volatile organic compound, Organic compounds, Volatile, Ozone, Athabasca Oil Sands