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News & Events

Ritchie's MSI-NACE-MS

Congratulations to Ritchie on your most recent publication in the Journal of Proteome Research featuring your breakthrough lipidomics MSI-NACE-MS work done in collaboration with Human Metabolome Technologies (HMT) in Japan!

Welcome new undergrad students

It's a new academic year in the Britz-McKibbin group and that means we have new undergrads to introduce. Welcome Vanessa, Claire, and Luxiga to our research group, we can't wait to see all your progress this year! Welcome back to Na-Yung, Navneet, Hani, and Michael as well who have all returned for further research opportunities. Glad to have all of you back!!

MSI-CE-MS versus 1H NMR

Check out our newest publication that features the first inter-method comparison of MSI-CE-MS with 1H NMR for serum metabolite quantification, as well as the identification of serum biomarkers associated with liver fibrosis progression in hepatitis C patients. Congratulations to Meera and Zach as well as our previous thesis students, Holly and Richel for this publication. Thanks to all of our collaborators as well including Dr. Sarfaraz and Dr. Wishart for your ongoing support and collaboration.

A Cross-Platform Metabolomics Comparison Identifies Serum Metabolite Signatures of Liver Fibrosis Progression in Chronic Hepatitis C Patients

Welcoming Navneet to the group

The Britz group would also like to welcome Navneet Kang to our research group as an NSERC undergraduate summer student. Navneet comes to us from the Chemical Biology program here at McMaster. We can't wait to see what exciting research you are apart of this summer.

Check out our newest publication

The Britz-McKibbin group would like to congratulate one of our former members, Mai Yamamoto, for her recent publication seeking to identify urinary metabolic signatures of pediatric IBD at diagnosis, and during induction treatment. We are always excited to see one of our current (or former) student's work get published. In Mai's work over 122 urinary metabolites were reliably measured from pediatric IBD patients and dynamic changes in sum-normalized urinary metabolites were also monitored following exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN) or corticosteroid therapy (CT) in repeat urine samples collected over 8 weeks. Take a look at her results!

Urinary Metabolites Enable Differential Diagnosis and Therapeutic Monitoring of Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Undergraduate Thesis Night

A big congratulations to all of our undergraduate thesis students who defended their theses tonight! A great job done by all. Everyone in the Britz-McKibbin group wishes each of you nothing but the best in your future endeavors. Also a HUGE congrats to Sriprada Thallpalli on winning the Analytical section's award for best presentation!

New publication alert!

Congratulations to Meera, Zach, Biban and everyone else who contributed to our most recent publication in Nature Protocols. Over 7 months, 4 cohorts or pregnant women from across Canada were profiled (n = 1004) using metabolomics. Stringent quality controls were used to ensure samples were analyzed both accurately and precisely using multisegment injection-capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry. We also report reference intervals for 53 serum metabolites from a diverse population of women in their second trimester of pregnancy. Take a look at the publication!

The maternal serum metabolome by multisegment injection-capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry: a high-throughput platform and standardized data workflow for large-scale epidemiological studies

Welcome Na-Yung to the research group

It's a new semester and that means a new co-op student is starting in the Britz-McKibbin group. Welcome to the group Na-Yung, we are looking forward to your contributions this semester to our lab group's research particularly with the large-scale epidemiological PURE study. With it being the end of last semester too we also have to say good-bye to Eric. Thanks for all of your help as a co-op student. With that being said, we are happy to still have you in the research group as you finish your final semester at McMaster as a research student.

Check out our newest IBD paper

A big congratulations to Julie-Anne, a former undergrad in the Britz-McKibbin group currently in Medical School at McGill University for her recent publication in the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis. Therein she validated two methods for determination of 3 short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and 5 electrolytes in lyophilized fecal extracts using CE-iUV. She was able to study how these SCFAs and electrolytes varied among Crohn's and ulcerative colitis patients who were treated with exclusive enteral nutrition or corticosteroid therapy. Check out her work!!

Lyophilized fecal short-chain fatty acid and electrolyte determination by capillary electrophoresis with indirect UV detection for assessment of pediatric inflammatory bowel disease


Recently accepted CE-MS ring trial our group participated in is out now!

Article link:


Capillary zone electrophoresis-mass spectrometry (CE-MS) is a mature analytical tool for the efficient profiling of (highly) polar and ionizable compounds. However, the use of CE-MS in comparison to other separation techniques remains underrepresented in metabolomics, as this analytical approach is still perceived as technically challenging and less reproducible, notably for migration time. The latter is key for a reliable comparison of metabolic profiles and for unknown biomarker identification that is complementary to high resolution MS/MS. In this work, we present the results of a Metabo-ring trial involving 16 CE-MS platforms among 13 different laboratories spanning two continents. The goal was to assess the reproducibility and identification capability of CE-MS by employing effective electrophoretic mobility (µeff) as the key parameter in comparison to the relative migration time (RMT) approach. For this purpose, a representative cationic metabolite mixture in water, pretreated human plasma and urine samples spiked with the same metabolite mixture, were used and distributed for analysis by all laboratories. The µeff was determined for all metabolites spiked into each sample. The background electrolyte (BGE) was prepared and employed by each participating lab following the same protocol. All other parameters (capillary, interface, injection volume, voltage ramp, temperature, capillary conditioning and rinsing procedure, etc.) were left to the discretion of the contributing labs. The results revealed that the reproducibility of the µeff for 20 out of the 21 model compounds was below 3.1% vs. 10.9% for RMT, regardless of the huge heterogeneity in experimental conditions and platforms across the thirteen labs. Overall, this Metabo-ring trial demonstrated that CE-MS is a viable and reproducible approach for metabolomics.

Check out some new work published in Anal Chem by Biban

Article link:


Urinary 1-hydroxypyrene (HP) is a widely used biomarker of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure relevant for biomonitoring the deleterious health impacts from tobacco smoke and ambient air pollution, as well as the hazards of certain occupations. Conventional methods for urinary HP analysis based on liquid chromatography with native fluorescence detection or tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) are limited by low sample throughput and complicated sample workup protocols that are prone to bias. Herein, we introduce a high throughput method to directly analyze the intact glucuronide conjugate of HP (HP-G) in human urine after a simple acidified ether extraction procedure when using multisegment injection–capillary electrophoresis–tandem mass spectrometry (MSI–CE–MS/MS). Multiplexed analyses of 13 independent urine extracts are achieved in a single run (<3 min/sample) with stringent quality control while avoiding enzyme deconjugation and precolumn chemical derivatization. Method validation demonstrates good technical precision (CV = 7.7%, n = 45) and accuracy with a mean recovery of (93 ± 3%) for urinary HP-G at three concentration levels with adequate detection limits (7 ng/L, S/N = 3). An interlaboratory method comparison of urine samples collected from firefighters deployed in the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire also confirms good mutual agreement with an acceptable negative bias (mean bias = 15%, n = 55) when measuring urinary HP-G by MSI–CE–MS/MS as compared to total hydrolyzed urinary HP by GC–MS due to the low residual levels of free HP and its sulfate conjugate. This multiplexed separation platform is optimal for large-scale biomonitoring studies of air pollution relevant to global health as well as occupational smoke exposures in firefighters susceptible to dermal PAH absorption when using personal protective equipment.

Congratulations to Dr. Sandi Azab on her successful PhD defense (Chemical Biology)!

Congratulations to Dr. Sandi Azab on her successful PhD defense (Chemical Biology) on Friday August 14, 2020. 


MACData Graduate Fellowship: Ritchie Ly

A big congratulations to Ritchie for being awarded the MacDATA Graduate Fellowship. For those of you familiar with MSI-CE-MS, the platform used in the Britz-McKibbin group, although we have found ways to increase the throughput of data acquisition, data processing is still a bottleneck. We cannot wait to see what improvements Ritchie can make to help make data processing more efficient.

The aims of the MacDATA Graduate Fellowship Program are: (1) To provide trainees with an opportunity to acquire practical and theoretical skills in data science. (2) To facilitate exchange of expertise and knowledge in data science across faculties.

Another publication

It's been another really productive week here in the Britz-McKibbin group with another publication from Sandi. For this work Sandi studied perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), a major contaminant class due to their ubiquitous prevalence, persistence, and endocrine disrupting activity that can contribute to chronic disease risk (most notably with exposures early in life). Sandi found that PFAS exposures in pregnant women was lower in this specific birth cohort (SouTh Asian birth cohoRT) relative to serum collected prior to 2009 likely due to subsequent phase out of their production. Overall, the method highlighted in this paper offers a convenient approach for large‐scale biomonitoring of environmental exposures to legacy PFASs and their emerging replacements. Take a look at the manuscript (link below)!

Rapid biomonitoring of perfluoroalkyl substance exposures in serum by multisegment injection‐nonaqueous capillary electrophoresis‐tandem mass spectrometry



PAD and CLTI Discoveries

The Britz-McKibbin group is very excited to announce another new publication in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. Sandi performed serum metabolomics to reveal the mechanisms of peripheral artery disease (PAD) pathophysiology that may improve its diagnosis and prognosis to chronic limb-threatening ischemia (CLTI) complementary to the ankle–brachial index (ABI) and clinical presentations. This was a very interesting study that was done in collaboration with Dr. Qadura at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. Not only did they discover lower serum concentrations of creatine, histidine, lysine, oxoproline, monomethylarginine, as well as higher circulating phenylacetylglutamine levles in PAD patients, they also discovered higher serum concentrations of carnitine, creatinine, cystine and trimethylamine-N-oxide in CLTI cases. We hope this research into PAD and CLTI can help improve patient outcomes in the future. Take a look at their work!

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.