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J Breath Res. 2014 Jun;8(2):027105. doi: 10.1088/1752-7155/8/2/027105. Epub 2014 Apr 8.

Current breathomics--a review on data pre-processing techniques and machine learning in metabolomics breath analysis.

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Department of Toxicology, Nutrition and Toxicology Research Institute Maastricht (NUTRIM), Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, the Netherlands. Top Institute Food and Nutrition, Wageningen, the Netherlands.


We define breathomics as the metabolomics study of exhaled air. It is a strongly emerging metabolomics research field that mainly focuses on health-related volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Since the amount of these compounds varies with health status, breathomics holds great promise to deliver non-invasive diagnostic tools. Thus, the main aim of breathomics is to find patterns of VOCs related to abnormal (for instance inflammatory) metabolic processes occurring in the human body. Recently, analytical methods for measuring VOCs in exhaled air with high resolution and high throughput have been extensively developed. Yet, the application of machine learning methods for fingerprinting VOC profiles in the breathomics is still in its infancy. Therefore, in this paper, we describe the current state of the art in data pre-processing and multivariate analysis of breathomics data. We start with the detailed pre-processing pipelines for breathomics data obtained from gas-chromatography mass spectrometry and an ion-mobility spectrometer coupled to multi-capillary columns. The outcome of data pre-processing is a matrix containing the relative abundances of a set of VOCs for a group of patients under different conditions (e.g. disease stage, treatment). Independently of the utilized analytical method, the most important question, 'which VOCs are discriminatory?', remains the same. Answers can be given by several modern machine learning techniques (multivariate statistics) and, therefore, are the focus of this paper. We demonstrate the advantages as well the drawbacks of such techniques. We aim to help the community to understand how to profit from a particular method. In parallel, we hope to make the community aware of the existing data fusion methods, as yet unresearched in breathomics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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