The non-invasive, quick, and safe collection of exhaled breath condensate makes it a candidate as a diagnostic matrix in personalized health monitoring devices. The lack of standardization in collection methods and sample analysis is a persistent limitation preventing its practical use. The collection method and hardware design are recognized to significantly affect the metabolomic content of EBC samples, but this has not been systematically studied. Here, we completed a series of experiments to determine the sole effect of collection temperature on the metabolomic content of EBC. Temperature is a likely parameter that can be controlled to standardize among different devices. The study considered six temperature levels covering two physical phases of the sample; liquid and solid. The use of a single device in our study allowed keeping saliva filtering and collector surface effects as constant parameters and the temperature as a controlled variable; the physiological differences were minimized by averaging samples from a group of volunteers and a period of time. After EBC collection, we used an organic solvent rinse to collect the non-water-soluble compounds from the condenser surface. This additional matrix enhanced metabolites recovery, was less dependent on temperature changes, and may possibly serve as an additional pointer to standardize EBC sampling methodologies. The collected EBC samples were analyzed with a set of mass spectrometry methods to provide an overview of the compounds and their concentrations present at each temperature level. The total number of volatile and polar non-volatile compounds slightly increased in each physical phase as the collection temperature was lowered to minimum, 0 °C for liquid and -30, -56 °C for solid. The low-polarity non-volatile compounds showed a weak dependence on the collection temperature. The metabolomic content of EBC samples may not be solely dependent on temperature but may be influenced by other phenomena such as greater sample dilution due to condensation from the ambient air at colder temperatures, or due to adhesion properties of the collector surface and occurring chemical reactions. The relative importance of other design parameters such as condenser coating versus temperature requires further investigation.
Keywords: Analytical methods; Breath metabolomics; Collection temperature control; Exhaled breath condensate (EBC).
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