Thermal desorption: Ensuring data quality in breath analysis

Thermal desorption: Ensuring data quality in breath analysis

Helen Martin, Caroline Widdowson, Natasha Spadafora and Laura Miles

Markes International, Gwaun Elai Medi-Science Campus, Llantrisant, RCT, UK.

Poster PDF


The analysis of VOCs in exhaled breath offers an exciting potential opportunity to diagnose life-threatening diseases in a non-invasive and inexpensive fashion. If accepted into clinical practice, this approach would allow cost-effective screening of large populations, facilitating early diagnosis, improving patient outcomes and reducing health care costs.

Breath samples represent a unique snapshot into a patient’s clinical journey and so it is vital that every stage of the workflow is designed to safeguard the integrity of the samples and ensure the highest possible data quality. Thermal desorption (TD) coupled with GC-MS has long been established as the gold standard technique for breath analysis due to the inherent pre-concentration of trace level VOCs offering maximum sensitivity and the extended storage stability compared to other methodologies.

In large-scale clinical trials, breath analysis is carried out over time spans of several months or sometimes years, involving multiple locations. Due to these challenging conditions, breath researchers worldwide are faced with an analytical dilemma: how to prove with confidence that data are of good quality?

In this poster we will explore the challenges of standardisation, water management and the irreplaceability of each sample and how thermal desorption provides automated solutions to safeguard sample integrity and produce reliable data in a scalable workflow.


  1. Broadhurst, David, Royston Goodacre, Stacey N. Reinke, et al. 2018. “Guidelines and Considerations for the Use of System Suitability and Quality Control Samples in Mass Spectrometry Assays Applied in Untargeted Clinical Metabolomic Studies.” Metabolomics 14 (6).






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