British scientists develop new LC-MS test for asthma

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  • Published: Sep 19, 2016
  • Author: Jon Evans
  • Source: Loughborough University
  • Channels: HPLC / Base Peak
thumbnail image: British scientists develop new LC-MS test for asthma

A new test that uses liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to diagnose asthma from a patient’s saliva has been developed by a team of British scientists.

Around 5.4 million people currently receive treatment for asthma in the UK, of which 1.1 million are children. To diagnose the condition, doctors usually measure a person’s airflow lung capacity, however lung function tests can be inaccurate and do not reflect the underlying physiological changes associated with asthma. Other tests, such as blood, urine or sputum analysis, can be distressing, particularly for younger patients.

The new test, which is reported in a recent paper in Analytical Methods, is completely painless and offers a one-stop diagnosis suitable for people of all ages. To develop the test, the research team, led by Colin Creaser from Loughborough University’s Department of Chemistry and Dominick Shaw from the Respiratory Research Unit at Nottingham City Hospital, collected saliva from patients with asthma and from healthy individuals. They then analyzed these samples with LC-MS to find metabolic biomarkers of the condition.

By detecting the presence and amount of these metabolic biomarkers, the new test proved able to diagnose asthma. It also has the potential to pinpoint the severity and progression of the disease.

“Unlike other sampling methods, such as expired breath analysis, saliva can be collected by passive drool from the very young to the very old without causing distress,” explains Creaser. “We were therefore interested to know if techniques for metabolic profiling of saliva to identify physiological stress from exercise – developed by Loughborough – could be applied to asthma diagnosis. We were very excited to discover that they could.”

Before the new test can move to a clinical setting, the diagnostic metabolic biomarkers identified in this study need to be validated in further longitudinal studies. If this is successful, the approach could be used in early asthma diagnosis, as well as part of the ongoing monitoring of patients.

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