Acetaldehyde and hexanaldehyde from cultured white cells

J Transl Med. 2009 Apr 29:7:31. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-7-31.


Background: Noninvasive detection of innate immune function such as the accumulation of neutrophils remains a challenge in many areas of clinical medicine. We hypothesized that granulocytes could generate volatile organic compounds.

Methods: To begin to test this, we developed a bioreactor and analytical GC-MS system to accurately identify and quantify gases in trace concentrations (parts per billion) emitted solely from cell/media culture. A human promyelocytic leukemia cell line, HL60, frequently used to assess neutrophil function, was grown in serum-free medium.

Results: HL60 cells released acetaldehyde and hexanaldehyde in a time-dependent manner. The mean +/- SD concentration of acetaldehyde in the headspace above the cultured cells following 4-, 24- and 48-h incubation was 157 +/- 13 ppbv, 490 +/- 99 ppbv, 698 +/- 87 ppbv. For hexanaldehyde these values were 1 +/- 0.3 ppbv, 8 +/- 2 ppbv, and 11 +/- 2 ppbv. In addition, our experimental system permitted us to identify confounding trace gas contaminants such as styrene.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that human immune cells known to mimic the function of innate immune cells, like neutrophils, produce volatile gases that can be measured in vitro in trace amounts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetaldehyde / analysis*
  • Aldehydes / analysis*
  • Bioreactors
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Culture Media
  • HL-60 Cells
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / cytology
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Styrene / analysis
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis


  • Aldehydes
  • Culture Media
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Styrene
  • n-hexanal
  • Acetaldehyde