Low-field, benchtop NMR spectroscopy as a potential tool for point-of-care diagnostics of metabolic conditions: Validation, protocols and computational models

Novel sensing technologies for liquid biopsies offer promising prospects for the early detection of metabolic conditions through omics techniques. Indeed, high-field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) facilities are routinely used for metabolomics investigations on a range of biofluids in order to rapidly recognise unusual metabolic patterns in patients suffering from a range of diseases. However, these techniques are restricted by the prohibitively large size and cost of such facilities, suggesting a possible role for smaller, low-field NMR instruments in biofluid analysis. Herein we describe selected biomolecule validation on a low-field benchtop NMR spectrometer (60 MHz), and present an associated protocol for the analysis of biofluids on compact NMR instruments. We successfully detect common markers of diabetic control at low-to-medium concentrations through optimised experiments, including α-glucose (≤2.8 mmol/L) and acetone (25 µmol/L), and additionally in readily accessible biofluids, particularly human urine. We present a combined protocol for the analysis of these biofluids with low-field NMR spectrometers for metabolomics applications, and offer a perspective on the future of this technique appealing to ‘point-of-care’ applications.