Hussain, J., Mantri, N., Cohen, M. (2017) Working Up a Good Sweat – The challenges of standardising sweat collection for metabolomics analysis. Clinical Biochemistry Reviews 38(1):11-34
Introduction: Human sweat is a complex biofluid of interest to diverse scientific fields. Metabolomics analysis of sweat promises to improve screening, diagnosis and self-monitoring of numerous conditions through new applications and greater personalisation of medical interventions. Before these applications can be fully developed, existing methods for the collection, handling, processing and storage of human sweat need to be revised. This review presents a cross-disciplinary overview of the origins, composition, physical characteristics and functional roles of human sweat, and explores the factors involved in standardising sweat collection for metabolomics analysis. Methods: A literature review of human sweat analysis over the past 10 years (2006-2016) was performed to identify studies with metabolomics or similarly applicable ‘omics’ analysis. These studies were reviewed with attention to sweat induction and sampling techniques, timing of sweat collection, sweat storage conditions, laboratory derivation, processing and analytical platforms. Results: Comparative analysis of 20 studies revealed numerous factors that can significantly impact the validity, reliability and reproducibility of sweat analysis including: anatomical site of sweat sampling, skin integrity and preparation; temperature and humidity at the sweat collection sites; timing and nature of sweat collection; metabolic quenching; transport and storage; qualitative and quantitative measurements of the skin microbiota at sweat collection sites; and individual variables such as diet, emotional state, metabolic conditions, pharmaceutical, recreational drug and supplement use. Conclusion: Further development of standard operating protocols for human sweat collection can open the way for sweat metabolomics to significantly add to our understanding of human physiology in health and disease.