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News & Events

New Manuscript Alert

The Britz-McKibbin group is very excited to announce the recently publication of some of Michelle Saoi's PhD research assessing sex-specific differences in fetal development during gestation in placental tissue. This work was done in collaboration with Deb Sloboda's group and we can't wait for you to check out the paper published in Scientific Reports. Michelle recently graduated from McMaster and is currently a Metabolomics Specialist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in NYC!

Recent research featured on McMaster's Website

We are very excited that McMaster recently featured Sandi Azab's work on a reliable and accurate blood test to track individual fat intake, a tool that could guide public health policy on healthy eating in the future. Great work Sandi! Check out the article below!!

McMaster chemists develop foolproof new test to track the fats we eat

!!!New Paper Alert!!!

Check out Sandi's recently published paper in the Journal of Lipid Research titled "Serum non-esterified fatty acids have utility as dietary biomarkers of fat intake from fish, fish oil and dairy in women". See abstract and link below!


Nutritional studies rely on various biological specimens for fatty acid (FA) determination, yet it is unclear how levels of serum non-esterified FA (NEFAs) correlate with other circulating lipid pools. Here, we used a high throughput method (< 4 min/sample) based on multisegment injection-non-aqueous-capillary electrophoresis–mass spectrometry (MSI-NACE-MS) to investigate whether specific serum NEFAs have utility as biomarkers of dietary fat intake in women. We first  identified circulating NEFAs correlated with long-term/habitual food intake among pregnant women with contrasting dietary patterns (n=50). Acute changes in serum NEFA trajectories were also studied in non-pregnant women (n=18) following high-dose (5 g/day) fish oil (FO) supplementation or isoenergetic sunflower oil placebo over 56 days. In the cross-sectional study, serum omega-3 (ω-3) FA correlated with self-reported total ω-3 daily intake, notably eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) as its NEFA (r=0.46; p=0.001), whereas pentadecanoic acid was associated with full-fat dairy intake (r=0.43; p=0.002), outcomes consistent with results from  total FA serum hydrolysates. In the intervention cohort, serum ω-3 NEFAs increased 2.5-fold from baseline within 28 days following FO supplementation, and this increase was most pronounced for EPA (p=0.0004). Unlike for docosahexaenoic acid, circulating EPA as its NEFA also strongly correlated to EPA concentrations measured from erythrocyte phospholipid hydrolysates (r=0.66; p=4.6 × 10-10), and was better suited to detect dietary non-adherence. We conclude that MSI-NACE-MS offers a rapid method to quantify serum NEFAs and objectively monitor dietary fat intake in women that is complementary to diet records or food frequency questionnaires.

Ritchie Ly: McMaster Student Union's TA of the Year

A very big congratulations to Ritchie on winning the TA of the Year award presented by the McMaster Student Union. Your dedication not only to your ongoing research in the Britz-McKibbin group, but to also to the students that you TA is a great reminder for all of us not only within our research group, but within the Chemistry and Chemical Biology department here at McMaster. We can't wait for you to pick up your award on March 27th 2020. Very much deserved and keep up the great work!

Congrats Hani on your NSERC

Congrats Hani on getting NSERC for the Winter 2020 term, we are so happy to have you as apart of our team.

Wishing our new co-ops a warm welcome

Here at the Britz-McKibbin group we are very excited to welcome Hani and Sriprada. We know both of them will be great additions as co-op students. Both Hani and Sriprada are joining us as Level 3 Chemical Biology students from here at McMaster. We can't wait to show them all metabolomics has to offer.

But with new co-ops starting we also had to say good-bye to our previous co-op Nicole. As she finishes up her undergrad this semester we wish her nothing but the best. Thanks for all your hard work and we are excited to hear all about your future experiences.

MetaboNews Spotlight Article

It's always a pleasure to be featured in spotlight articles. The Metabolomics Innovation Centre (TMIC) releases a monthly newsletter to keep metabolomic researchers and other professionals informed about new technologies, software, databases, events, job postings, conferences, training opportunities, interviews, publications, awards, and other newsworthy items concerning metabolomics. Take a look at the article highlighting the metabolomic approach we take when it comes to Drugs of Abuse testing and surveillance.

Comprehensive Drug Surveillance in an Era of Polypharmacy by Multisegment-Injection-Capillary Electrophoresis-Mass Spectrometry

MANA 2019

We had a great time at the inaugural MANA (Metabolomics Association of North America) conference this year in Atlanta, USA. Biban, one of our PhD candidate students was able to present her research involving new advances in biomonitoring of smoke exposure. Her talk was well received, great work Biban!

DIGEST work also featured in Toronto Star

We are very excited to hear that Metro news (owned by the Toronto Star) also picked up our DIGEST work on dietary markers. Take a look at the link below if you haven't had the chance to read it yet.

Diet Detectives

Researchers at McMaster have identified several chemical signatures, detectable in blood and urine, that can accurately measure dietary intake, potentially offering a new tool for physicians, dietitians and researchers to assess eating habits, measure the value of fad diets and develop health policies.

The research, published in the journal Nutrients, addresses a major challenge in assessing diets: studies in nutrition largely rely on participants to record their own food intake, which is subject to human error, forgetfulness or omission.

“This has been a major issue in nutritional research and may be one of the main reasons for the lack of real progress in nutritional sciences and chronic disease prevention,” says Philip Britz-McKibbin, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster University and lead author of the study, which was a collaboration with Dr. Sonia Anand and colleagues from the Departments of Medicine, and Health Research, Evidence, and Impact.

Scientists set out to determine if they could identify chemical signatures, or metabolites, that reflect changes in dietary intake, measure those markers and then compare the data with the foods study participants were provided and then reported they had eaten. The specimens analyzed were from healthy individuals who participated in the Diet and Gene Intervention Study (DIGEST).

Over a two-week period, researchers studied two contrasting diets: the Prudent diet,  rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains, and a contemporary Western diet, rich in trans fats, processed foods, red meat and sweetened beverages.

Researchers were able to validate a panel of metabolites in urine and plasma that correlated with the participants’ consumption of fruits, vegetables, protein and/or fiber.

“We were able to detect short-term changes in dietary patterns which could be  measured objectively,” says Britz-McKibbin. “And it didn’t take long for these significant changes to become apparent.”

Britz-McKibbin cautions that food chemistry is highly complex. Our diets are composed of thousands of different kinds of chemicals, he says, and researchers don’t know what role they all may play in overall health.

In future, he hopes to broaden this work by examining a larger cohort of participants over a longer period of time. His team is also exploring several ways to assess maternal nutrition during crucial stages of fetal development and its impact on obesity and metabolic syndrome risk in children.

The study was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Genome Canada, Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative Opportunities Fund, and the Faculty of Science at McMaster.

Jen's PKU Work

Congratulations to one of our former group members, Jen Wild, on her paper outlining potential urinary biomarkers for the dietary assessment of phenylketonuria (PKU). Considering the management of PKU requires lifelong restriction of phenylalanine (Phe) intake, typically specialized medical foods are used to prevent neurocognitive impairment in affected patients, and thus a need for a non-invasive assessment of dietary adherence is important. Plasma metabolomic studies demonstrated that non-adherent PKU patients had lower circulating concentrations of Tyr, arginine, 2-aminobutyric acid, and propionylcarnitine that were inversely correlated to Phe. Nontargeted metabolite profiling also revealed urinary biomarkers associated with poor dietary adherence among PKU patients, including elevated concentrations of catabolites indicative of Phe intoxication (e.g., phenylpyruvic acid, phenylacetylglutamine, hydroxyphenylacetic acid). Take a look at her manuscript below:

Metabolomics for improved treatment monitoring of phenylketonuria: urinary biomarkers for non-invasive assessment of dietary adherence and nutritional deficiencies

Take a look at our DIGEST paper

We are very excited for another recent publication out of the Britz-McKibbin group. To date this is one of our largest collaborations involving Health Science here at McMaster. Why not take a look at Nadine's results where she metabolically phenotyped 42 healthy participants after being assigned either a "prudent" or "western" diet using single spot urine and fasting plasma samples to provide a complete list of biomarkers for changes in habitual diet of participants. Targeted and nontargeted metabolite profiling was conducted using three complementary analytical platforms, where 80 plasma metabolites and 84 creatinine-normalized urinary metabolites were reliably measured in the majority of participants. Check it out...

Metabolic Trajectories Following Contrasting Prudent and Western Diets from Food Provisions: Identifying Robust Biomarkers of Short-Term Changes in Habitual Diet

More accepted papers

We are excited to announce two more papers from the Britz-McKibbin group have been accepted!

Jen Wild's work on improved monitoring of PKU paitents titled "Metabolomics for Improved Treatment Monitoring of Phenylketonuria: Urinary Biomarkers for Non-invasive Assessment of Dietary Adherence and Nutritional Deficiencies" was recently accepted in Analyst.

As well as Nadine Wellington's work titled "Elucidating the Anomalous Binding Enhancement of Isoquinoline Boronic Acid in Acidic Conditions for Sialic Acid: Biorecognition Beyond Vicinal Diols" was recently accepted in Chemistry - A European Journal.

Congrats to both of these former students! Stay tuned for more information when both papers are published.

Congrats Michelle on your most recent publication

Check out Michelle Saoi's recent publication in the Journal of Proteomics Research titled High Throughput Screening of Serum γ-Glutamyl Dipeptides for Risk Assessment of Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis with Impaired Glutathione Salvage Pathway. Considering the exact mechanisms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) pathophysiology remain poorly understood, including its progression to the more severe nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), Michelle's research highlights a targeted analysis of a panel of 16 serum γ-glutamyl dipeptides from a cohort of NASH adult patients from Japan. SPOILER ALERT! Her findings highlight the key role of defects in the γ-glutamyl cycle for differentiation of NASH patients, which may enable better risk assessment of long-term survivorship as a complement to standard liver enzyme screens and histopathology.

Why not participate in one of our studies?

Study Summary: In collaboration with Spark Medical Cannabis Clinic and PureSinse, a licensed producer of medicinal cannabis, the Britz-McKibbin research group at McMaster University is currently studying how the metabolism of cannabis differs in humans when ingested orally as an oil extract or vaped/smoked as a dried leaf.

This work is especially relevant for patients taking other medications concurrently, and who suffer from chronic pain, anxiety, or insomnia. Several factors impact patient treatment responses to prescribed medicinal cannabis, which remain poorly understood, and highly variable between subjects.

This study aims to better identify and characterize various metabolites of cannabis, known as cannabinoids, that are excreted in urine reflecting how quickly and in what manner the body eliminates medicinal cannabis.

Knowledge gained from this study will help us better understand how medicinal cannabis can be optimally prescribed to individual patients as a way to maximize its therapeutic benefits safely without any adverse drug interactions.

Investigating medical cannabis metabolism: Each person metabolizes cannabis differently depending on lifestyle, genes, mode if intake, and other factors that remain poorly understand. By studying small molecules found in your urine known as metabolites, we can better understand your individual metabolism. This information may help doctors better prescribe medicinal cannabis for optimized therapeutic benefits.

Participation: You are free to leave the study at any time ever after enrolment. Your decision will not affect the level of care you receive at SPARK. Participants of this study will receive a $10 Starbucks gift card upon their second visit to SPARK clinic.


New Students

After a very productive summer here in the Britz group, and after saying good-bye to our summer undergrads we are really excited to welcome our new undergrads and a grad student to our research group. A warm welcome to our new MSc candidate (Chemistry) Megan Magee who recently completed her undergrad at Guelph University in Chemistry. After taking a year off she's excited to be back and participating in some exciting, novel research in the Britz-McKibbin group. Also we welcome, our new undergraduate research and co-op students, Eric, Hani, Paula, Nicole, and Sena, we look forward to an exciting year ahead and can't wait to hear about all of you progress on your respective projects.

Toronto Post-ASMS Symposium - Oct 21

19th Toronto Post-ASMS Mass Spec Symposium, a Free-to-Attend Mass Spec Users' Meeting will take place on Oct. 21 at Crowne Plaza Toronto Airport.

List of Talks (in speaker name alphabetical order):

  • Prof. Nicolas BissonLaval University/CHU Research Center of Quebec, Quebec, QC
    "Functional proteomics insights into receptor tyrosine kinase biology"
  • Dr. Eric BonneilUniversity of Montreal, Montreal, QC
    "Segmented Ion Fractionation and High Field Asymmetric Waveform Ion Mobility Spectrometry expands proteome coverage to uncover sequence variants"
  • Prof. Christoph BorchersMcGill University/University of Victoria, Montreal, QC
    "Structure determination of neurodegenerative disease-related misfolded protein aggregates by short-distance crosslinking constraint-guided discrete molecular dynamics (CL-DMD)"
  • Prof. Christine Des RosiersUniversity of Montreal/Montreal Heart Institute, Montreal, QC
    "Comprehensive lipidomics unveils lipid dyshomeostasis and low circulating plasmalogens as biomarker in a monogenic form of mitochondrial disorder"
  • Prof. Jennifer Geddes-McAlisterUniversity of Guelph, Guelph, ON
    "Dynamic proteomic profiling of the Salmonella-host interplay reveals new modes of action for known and novel virulence factors"
  • Dr. Kaveh KahenSigma Analytical Services, Toronto, ON
    "The use of mass spectrometry for quality control and understanding the complex chemistry of cannabis and its therapeutic effects"
  • Dr. Yuyong KeEndoCeutics, Quebec City, QC
    "Application of LC-MS in the investigation of recovery loss, degradation and storage stability of finished products"
  • Dr. John KellyNational Research Council Canada, Ottawa, ON
    "A comparative study of N-glycosylation assays for the characterization of Fc and Fab N-glycans on monoclonal antibodies"
  • Dr. Lili MatsAgriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Guelph, ON
    "Effects of purple potato rich diet on fecal metabolome profiles of mice as determined by untargeted LC-MS/MS screening"
  • Mr. Kevork MekhssianAltasciences, Laval, QC
    "A sensitive LC-HRMS method for the quantitation of dystrophin protein in human muscle tissue"
  • Dr. Adrien MusukuPharmascience, Montreal, QC
    "Matrix Effect, Recovery and Stability Issues in Regulated Cannabis Testing: Should Proficiency Testing Be Mandatory to Ensure Reliable Pesticides Analysis by LC-MS/MS?"
  • Prof. Hannes RostUniversity of Toronto, Toronto, ON
    "Ion Mobility Separation improves MS sensitivity and duty cycle for data-independent acquisition on the timsTOF Pro"
  • Dr. Audrey Roy-LachapelleEnvironment Canada, Montreal, QC
    "High-throughput determination of seventeen cyanotoxins and suspect screening of other cyanopeptides by SPE-UHPLC-HRMS in Canadian lakes"
  • Dr. Varoon SinghUniversity of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON
    "Direct Coupling of Magnetic Nanoparticles and Enhancement of Blade Spray Ionization Mass Spectrometry for Quantitation of Analytes in Complex Matrices"
  • Prof. Jeff SmithCarleton University, Ottawa, ON
    "iTrEnDi on biomolecules and beyond: enhancing MS-based quantitative analyses using new in situ diazoalkane chemistry"
  • Dr. Jonathan St-GermainPrincess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, ON
    "FBXO11 Network Identifies Novel Disease-Relevant Interaction with the Ubiquitin-Specific Protease USP28"
  • Prof. Bingyun SunSimon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC
    "Body-wide proteome dynamics in the understanding and assessment of multiorgan drug response"
  • Dr. Difei SunLifelabs Medical Laboratories, Toronto, ON - TBC
    "Method development and validation of LC-MS/MS based assay for detection of carfentanil and norcarfentanil in human urine"
  • Prof. Derek WilsonYork University, Toronto, ON
    "Illuminating the 'Dark Stage' of Amyloidogenesis in Neurodegenerative Disease Drug Development"
  • Prof. Arash Zarrine-AfsarUniversity of Toronto, Toronto, ON
    "Metabolic discrepancies within histologically equivalent tissues may limit the relevance of tumour bearing mice for mass spectrometry research"

Fun Part of the Meeting:

  • Good Food and Good Science as always!
  • Raffle Time - 3 Winners will be Drawn, and Each Winner will Receive a VISA Gift Card of $100

Many thanks to our 2019 Post-ASMS Sponsors:

  • Peak Scientific
  • Agilent Technologies
  • Waters
  • Phytronix
  • Parker Hannifin
  • Sciex
  • Mandel Shimadzu
  • Bruker
  • Thermo Scientific
  • Hamilton
  • Canadian Life Science
  • LECO
  • Zef Scientific
  • PerkinElmer
  • IonBench

Detailed information of this meeting is available at

This meeting is Free-to-Attend for Mass Spec users, but pre-registration to attend is required.

We look forward to seeing you on Oct. 21.

Check out our most recent article

We very excited to have been able to contribute to the latest GIT Laboratory & Biotechnology issue. Check out our article by Meera, Zach, Sabrina, and Dr. Britz titled Comprehensive Surveillance of Drugs of Abuse: A Method for Rapid and Accurate Urine Drug Testing in an Opioid Crisis.

The opioid crisis is an emerging public health emergency as reflected by the alarming increase in opioid-related deaths and addictions across North America. This is largely attributed to their widespread use as analgesics for the treatment of chronic pain. This problem is further compounded by the concurrent use of by other medications prone to abuse and poisoning, which are increasingly used without a prescription (e.g. benzodiazepenes). The adulteration of illicit drugs has also contributed to a rise in accidental drug overdose fatalities due to access to highly potent yet inexpensive synthetic opioids on the illegal drug market, such as fentanyl. In this context, methadone maintenance programs offer a harm reduction strategy to treat opioid addiction as methadone acts as a long-acting opioid agonist that inhibits pain while attenuating opioid withdrawal symptoms without generating euphoric-like sensations. However, optimum dose regimes are critical for successful treatment outcomes given

Goodbye to the undergrads

A big thank-you to Sabrina, Sean, Rochelle, and Nick for a great summer in the Brtiz-McKibbin group. We really enjoyed mentoring you this summer and can't wait to hear all about your future endeavours. We hope you truly enjoyed your summer with us, we sure did!!!

Looking forward to September when Nick will be re-joining us as a CHEM 3RP3 student along with our other undergraduate thesis students. Best of luck to all our out-going and in-coming undergrads during your Fall semester.

Check out our lastest collaboration

We are so happy to promote our latest collaboration with McMaster's Health Science Department. Congratulations Nadine on getting your DIGEST (Diet & Gene Interaction Study) work published, great work. Take a look at her paper below, some really interesting research on being able to metabolically differentiate patient diets. This could revolutionize the use to food frequency questionaires.

Metabolic Trajectories Following Contrasting Prudent and Western Diets from Food Provisions: Robust Biomarkers of Short-Term Changes in Habitual Diet

Listen to Dr. Britz in the latest CSMLS podcast

We always love getting the opportunity to try new things. Check out what Dr. Britz had to say about the ongoing opioid crisis in North America.

The opioid epidemic is a complex and multi-layered problem. In the episode Dr. Britz contributed to, they explore how various factors are contributing to this crisis. They also delve into how one novel drug testing methodology might just be one piece of the puzzle to combat the epidemic.

Episode 28 – A Piece of the Puzzle

Welcome Gustavo

A very warm welcome to Gustavo from Brazil who is here to shadow us for a few weeks before translating CE-MS to his research group. We can't wait to share all our wisdom and can't wait to learn from you as well! As a lab group we headed to an escape room this afternoon. Of course we escaped, nobody can keep the Britz-McKibbin group locked up!!!

PhD: Nadine

A very big congratulations to Nadine who successfully defended her PhD (Targeted and Non-Targeted Metabolite Analysis for Disease Risk Assessment) today. Welcome to the PhD club! We can't wait to hear all about your future endeavors, we know you'll make a significant impact no matter where you end up. We hope you enjoyed your sip out of the chalice at the Phoenix this afternoon.

Great Seminar Nadine

It is always a pleasure to hear all about a members research and the contributions they have made in their field of study. Great seminar today Nadine, best of luck at your defense on Thursday. Come on out if your free - Thursday August 1st at 9:30am in the Grad Studies Office.

More research coming out

They say in academia summer is the time you are most productive and that is definitely the case this summer in the Britz group with another publication coming out today. Congratulations to Michelle (first author) and Alice (second author), both from our group, on your publication in Metabolites. Take a look at their findings on how metabolomics was used to study step reduction in older adults and their potential increased risk of developing sarcopenia.

Metabolic Perturbations from Step Reduction in Older Persons at Risk for Sarcopenia: Plasma Biomarkers of Abrupt Changes in Physical Activity

In the news...

Thanks McMaster University for featuring Mai's recent research into finding a possible urine biomarker for the accurate diagnosis of IBD (irritable bowel syndrome). Considering the prevalence of IBD, we hope this is only the beginning of it's diagnostic testing. Take a looks at the article published on McMaster's website.

Scientists find simple urine test could offer a non-invasive approach for diagnosis of IBS patients

Metabolomics Publication

Take a look at Mai's recent publication in Metabolomics where elevated urinary levels of collagen degradation and epithelial cell turnover products were discovered in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients. Hopefully this novel discovery can help with the accurate diagnosis of IBS pateints which is currently the most commonly diagnosed functional gastrointestinal disorder in developed countries.

Metabolomics reveals elevated urinary excretion of collagen degradation and epithelial cell turnover products in irritable bowel syndrome patients

Metabolomics 2019

We had a great time attending Metabolomics 2019 in the Netherlands. Hopefully you had the chance to visit Sandi and Dr. Britz's posters during the conference to hear about Sandi's research on reliable fatty acid biomarkers of maternal dietary fat intake and the group's research (presented by Dr. Britz) in collaboration with the DIGEST study. It was also great catching up with former members of the Britz-McKibbin group: Adriana and Mai.

Another successful PhD defence!!!

A massive congratulations to Michelle Saoi on her successful PhD defence this morning. Although we are sad to see you go we couldn't be happier on your success. Best of luck in New York during your Post Doc!!