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Chest. 2010 Oct;138(4):919-28. doi: 10.1378/chest.10-0179. Epub 2010 May 14.

An international randomized multicenter comparison of nasal potential difference techniques.

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  • 1University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294-0006, USA.



The transepithelial nasal potential difference (NPD) is used to assess cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) activity. Unreliability, excessive artifacts, and lack of standardization of current testing systems can compromise its use as a diagnostic test and outcome measure for clinical trials.


To determine whether a nonperfusing (agar gel) nasal catheter for NPD measurement is more reliable and less susceptible to artifacts than a continuously perfusing nasal catheter, we performed a multicenter, randomized, crossover trial comparing a standardized NPD protocol using an agar nasal catheter with the same protocol using a continuously perfusing catheter. The data capture technique was identical in both protocols. A total of 26 normal adult subjects underwent NPD testing at six different centers.


Artifact frequency was reduced by 75% (P < .001), and duration was less pronounced using the agar catheter. The measurement of sodium conductance was similar between the two catheter methods, but the agar catheter demonstrated significantly greater CFTR-dependent hyperpolarization, because Δ zero Cl- + isoproterenol measurements were significantly more hyperpolarized with the agar catheter (224.2 ± 12.9 mV with agar vs 18.2 ± 9.1 mV with perfusion, P < .05).


The agar nasal catheter approach demonstrates superior reliability compared with the perfusion nasal catheter method for measurement of NPD. This nonperfusion catheter method should be considered for adoption as a standardized protocol to monitor CFTR activity in clinical trials.

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