The Breath analysis study


This is Simon.

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

He has trouble taking a photograph of himself, but he is very serious about research for Parkinson’s disease.

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 things are 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 300 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 live within the South East of England* and would like to take part in the study (we are particularly interested in newly diagnosed subjects and those who are not taking any treatment), please contact contact us.

*Unfortunately we have limited funds for travel expenses.

LATEST UPDATE – 10/11/2017

We now have over 130 people enrolled in the study. We are still looking for more control subjects. So if you live in the Cambridgeshire area and would like to take part, please contact contact us.

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. While folks with PD have been very forthcoming, we are still looking for more control subjects. So if you live in the Cambridgeshire area and would like to take part, please contact contact us.

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).


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.