My particular research interests are in the analysis of VOCs from breath or the headspace above clinical samples of urine, blood, serum, sputum etc. in order to diagnose disease or monitor the health of an individual.
The analysis of breath to diagnose disease is a particularly attractive option because it is non-invasive and with the right equipment, it may be may be done directly in real time. Sometimes, breath analysis is not possible or desirable, however, VOCs produced in the body may still provide useful information. In this case, it may be more appropriate to analyse trace gases produced by other biological fluids, for example urine or blood.
Some medical conditions are better targets for VOC analysis than others. Current research interests include investigating VOC profiles in gastrointestinal disease, malignant melanoma, colo-rectal cancer, food intolerance and diabetes.
VOC analysis uses generic equipment and approaches which may be used in other applications, including environmental analysis, exposure assessments, air quality monitoring and microbiology etc. The main tools I use are Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS) and Gas Chromatography - Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS). However, sometimes there are advantages in using sensors where small, portable and inexpensive devices are more suitable, and we are currently involved in a project to assess the use of optical sensors in analysing breath and urine headspace.
I chaired production of the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) Access module Y033 as I am particularly interested in developing modules at Access and level 1 to help our students access higher education. Sometimes, one of our modules is the first experience students have of formal education, or the first time they have studied for many years, and I am interested in helping students make this first, important transition to a new way of learning.
I was an author on S240 Analytical science: health, heritage and environments, SD329: Signals and Perception and the new L1 Health Science module, SDK100.
I chaired S187: Elements of Forensic Science and Y033: Starting with Science, Technology and Maths
I also chaired S111: Questions in Science as it started production.
I was Associate Programme Director for Level 1 in the Facuty of Science until 2014.
I have active external collaborations, including with University of Birmingham, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cranfield University, Amersham Hospital, J. Heyrovsky Institute of Physical Chemistry in Prague, University of Keele's Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine.
|Biomedical Research Network (BRN)||Network||Faculty of Science|
|Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research (CEPSAR)||Centre||Faculty of Science|
|Role||Start date||End date||Funding source|
|Lead||01/Oct/2013||30/Sep/2016||Amerderm Trust/Amersham Hospital|
It has long been known that dogs are able to detect abnormal skin lesions and anecdotally, there are cases of dogs sniffing and licking their owners’ moles until the mole was tested and found to be malignant. For this reason, the researchers have looked into the ability of dogs to detect various cancers, with a high level of success. However, the challenge now is to translate this into an appropriate clinical test by identifying the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) involved in generating the odour and designing a system to detect them. Some preliminary work has been done on this (see Kwak et al., 2013), but in this project, for the first time, we aim to bring together the analytical capabilities of the Open University, the access to patients and melanoma samples from Amersham Hospital Dermatology Department and identify the VOC profile which the dogs use to detect melanoma.
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