Human exposure to aldehydes is implicated in multiple diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative disorders (i.e., Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases), and cancer. Because these compounds are strong electrophiles, they can react with nucleophilic sites in DNA and proteins to form reversible and irreversible modifications. These modifications, if not eliminated or repaired, can lead to alteration in cellular homeostasis, cell death and ultimately contribute to disease pathogenesis. This review provides an overview of the current knowledge of the methods and applications of aldehyde exposure measurements, with a particular focus on bioanalytical and mass spectrometric techniques, including recent advances in mass spectrometry (MS)-based profiling methods for identifying potential biomarkers of aldehyde exposure. We discuss the various derivatization reagents used to capture small polar aldehydes and methods to quantify these compounds in biological matrices. In addition, we present emerging mass spectrometry-based methods, which use high-resolution accurate mass (HR/AM) analysis for characterizing carbonyl compounds and their potential applications in molecular epidemiology studies. With the availability of diverse bioanalytical methods presented here including simple and rapid techniques allowing remote monitoring of aldehydes, real-time imaging of aldehydic load in cells, advances in MS instrumentation, high performance chromatographic separation, and improved bioinformatics tools, the data acquired enable increased sensitivity for identifying specific aldehydes and new biomarkers of aldehyde exposure. Finally, the combination of these techniques with exciting new methods for single cell analysis provides the potential for detection and profiling of aldehydes at a cellular level, opening up the opportunity to minutely dissect their roles and biological consequences in cellular metabolism and diseases pathogenesis.
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