The Breath analysis study


This is Simon.

Nice guy. Ridiculously tall, crooked glasses, and bad hair. But nice guy.

In addition to maintaining law and order here at SoPD HQ, he is also involved with the “BIRAX/Parkinson’s UK Breath analysis study”, which is a collaboration between Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) and Cambridge University (UK).


This particular webpage has been set up to outline the project and keep readers/participants up to date with how the study is going (see the bottom of the page for those updates).


The project is being led by Professor Hossam Haick (the inventor of the Nanose technology that is being used in this study) in Israel and Professor Roger Barker (Department of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Cambridge), and it is funded by the British Research Council and Parkinson’s UK.


It is a three year study focused on using the breath analysis technology invented and developed by Professor Haick’s group to collect multiple breath samples over time from 200 people with Parkinson’s disease and 100 healthy controls.

The aims of the study are:

  1. To validate the next generation breath test technology in determining people with Parkinson’s disease from people without the condition.

  2. Determine the potential of the breath test technology in stratifying people with Parkinson’s disease into disease subtypes, and then track disease progression within those groups overtime.

  3. Isolate chemical compounds from the breath samples and compare them with other biological samples collected from the same subjects (for example blood), in order to determine common features and patterns which may reveal new insights into the mechanisms underlying the condition.

  4. Investigate the chemical compounds in cell culture to assess their potential role in Parkinson’s disease.

The chemical compounds that the study is focused on are called “Volatile Organic Compounds” (or VOCs). These are organic chemicals that have a high vapour pressure at ordinary room temperature. They are numerous (there are thousands of them), varied, and ubiquitous. Most scents and odours are VOCs.


Part of Simon’s job is to collect the breath samples and forward them to Haifa, where the amazing Dr. Orna Barash (she’s brilliant) extracts the samples and analysing them. Once specific compounds have been determined as being specific to the Parkinson’s disease population, Orna and Simon will plan cell culture experiments (to be conducted in Cambridge) that will investigate whether the compounds have any relevance to the neurodegenerative process underlying Parkinson’s disease. The hope is that this research will lead to the development of regenerative therapies for Parkinson’s disease.

This page has been set up to keep participants and the general public aware of the progress in the project. We will keep you post results here when they become available. If you have any questions, please contact contact us.

LATEST UPDATE – 1/10/2018

The data collection aspect of the BIRAX2/Parkinson’s UK Breath Analysis study is now completed. We finished with a total of 214 participants tookpart in the study. The results are now being analysed and after the final report of the study is submitted to the funders, we will seek to get the results published in a peer-reviewed journal. Once that process is complete we will make a layperson summary available here (possibly in early 2019).

UPDATE – 28/06/2018

We have now recruited 210 participants to the study.

UPDATE – 10/05/2018

The study now has 191 participants enrolled. Quietly feeling confident that we will be able to make full enrolment before the end of the study.

UPDATE – 20/04/2018

Recently I gave a presentation of the Breath analysis study at the Parkinson’s UK Gretchen Amphlet lectures evening here in Cambridge (UK):


During the talk I presented some of the initial results of the study, such as how combinations of VOCs could be used to determine if a person has had Parkinson’s for a long time:


Or how combinations of VOCs could potentially be used to identify individuals with Parkinson’s who may be having cognitive issues:


Combinations of VOCs also appear to be capable of identifying individuals with Parkinson’s who are suffering from depression:


If you would like to watch the talk, Parkinson’s UK have kindly filmed the entire evening and made it available (and I recommend that you watch the talk by Professor Oliver Bandmann (of the Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience) which followed my talk in which he discusses how his group are changing the way Parkinson’s will be diagnosed and treated (in addition, he announced that they have received funding to conduct a clinical trial on UDCA in Parkinson’s – Click here to read more about UDCA).

UPDATE – 01/03/2018

The study now has over 175 participants enrolled and we should have some more preliminary data available on the website shortly.

In other news, Prof Hossam Haick and myself (Simon) will be presenting some of the data at the BIRAX workshop in London at the British Academy of Medical Sciences on the 5-6th March.


UPDATE – 19/01/2018

Happy new year folks! 2018 is off to a good start for the breath study. We have now recruited 157 people to the study (30% of whom have already provided multiple breath samples). We hope to have some more preliminary data available here shortly.

UPDATE – 10/11/2017

We now have over 130 people enrolled in the study.

In addition, Prof Haick (inventor of the Nanose technology that is being used in this study) was on the news network CNN recently talking about his research (Click here to see the interview and to read more about it).


UPDATE – 14/10/2017

We now have over 115 people enrolled in the study and most of them have also given second and third samples. Things are moving along very nicely. The machine we are using in the study (called the Nanose) recently went to Germany for a systems check and everything seems to be working well.

UPDATE – 26/08/2017

We now have well over 100 people enrolled in the study and a lot of repeat visits/samplings (This is a longitudinal study and we are hoping to collect samples from people over time, allowing us to track how the disease to progressing). In addition, we have some of our first preliminary results. Using just breath samples from people with Parkinson’s disease, our findings indicate that we can distinguish those individuals with high Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) scores from people with low scores (a measure of disease severity):


We can also use breath samples to distinguish people with longer disease duration from those with a shorter period since diagnosis:


As I say, preliminary stuff, but still extremely impressive that this is even possible. More results soon.

UPDATE – 05/07/2017

So our goal of hitting 100 recruits by the end of June was not achieved. We currently have 89 people enrolled in the study. Most of the subjects we tested this last month were repeat visits (providing a second or third breath sample). We will definitely hit 100 by the end of this month! (Famous last words? I think not!)

In other news, our collaborator on the project, Prof Hossam Haick, is in the news today. He discusses his research, the medical applications, and the development of his Breath analysis technology on the Israel21c website (Click here to read more).


Prof Haick also received the prestigious Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Honoris Causa, from University of Haifa.


The honorary degree was awarded in recognition of his groundbreaking achievements and significant contribution to the development of cutting-edge approaches to non-invasive medical diagnosis of early-stage disease, and for his extraordinary abilities to apply his research findings into advanced and efficient medical devices (Click here to read more). Congratulations Prof Haick!

UPDATE – 23/5/2017

A quiet month for the study, but still recruiting (72 people now consented and sampled) and we are continuing to re-sample participants. We are hoping to increase the number of participant to 100 by the end of June to get back on track to achieving our ultimate goal of 300. Big milestones for big goals – let’s see if we can do it.

UPDATE – 20/04/2017:

We have now recruited 65 people to the study, including nine control subjects. Many of these subjects have already provided multiple samples of breath. Their samples have been anonymised and forwarded to Israel. We have also pulled all of the clinical data we have available on the subjects and we are using artificial intelligence computers in Israel to analyse all of these variables to determine if we can group people based on the chemicals in their breath and certain clinical data points (eg. age, handedness, genetic factors, cognitive scores, etc). To date, the data analysed is from a population too small to make any conclusions from.