Mass Spec in the Clinic
We explore the increasingly vital role of mass spectrometry in medical research – its incorporation into routine medical practice, importance in lipidomic cancer research, and the almost endless diagnostic potential of mass spectrometry imaging
Margot Lespade, Georgia Hulme, Frank van Geel | | 2 min read | Review
Livia Eberlin, Eva Cuypers, Michal Holčapek and Ron Heeren explain how high-quality analytical tools are enabling their groundbreaking translational research and predict what lies ahead – both for their work and for the field as a whole.
Welcome to mass spec in the clinic.
Eva Cuypers: MSI Marvel
Eva Cuypers discusses the almost endless potential of mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) in clinical applications, her research on intraoperative diagnostics for the rapid identification of cancer cells, and the importance of researcher–clinician relationships
“In clinical research, I’d say MSI has the potential to revolutionize the field. MSI can provide valuable information about the distribution and abundance of various compounds in biological samples that can inform the development of new diagnostic tools, treatments, and therapies. For example, MSI can be used to study the distribution of drugs in tissues to determine their efficiency and safety, which can help optimize drug delivery and improve drug effectiveness.
“But it can also be used directly in disease diagnosis and prognosis through the identification of specific biomarkers or compounds that are associated with specific diseases in tissues or cells from patients. Here, the focus is often on improving the accuracy of disease diagnosis and/or enabling earlier detection of disease.”
Michal Holčapek: Lighting Up Lipidomics
Michal Holčapek highlights the importance of lipidomics in clinical research – and shares his work in cancer diagnosis
“Compared with genomics, there are some interesting advantages to exploring the phenotype; the lipidome is closer to the function in the omics cascade, so it offers a higher chance of discovering biomarkers of ongoing or early disease in the human body – as already demonstrated for cancer and cardiovascular diseases.”
Livia Eberlin: On a Medical Mass Spec Mission
Livia Eberlin highlights the importance of high-quality analytical tools in medical research – and details her personal mission to incorporate mass spec into routine medical practice
“I believe it is about time that we see some real changes in clinical diagnostics by incorporating lipids into clinical analysis and decision making. There is a substantial body of scientific and clinical work that supports the translational implementation of lipidomics into routine clinical testing. There are three advances that have enabled this implementation: i) the aforementioned mass spectrometry tools that allow rapid analysis of lipids directly from patient specimens, ii) the ability to measure lipids with high chemical specificity, and iii) data analytics and machine learning algorithms that allows us to convert lipidic information into clinically actionable data.”
Ron Heeren: An Imaging Revolution: from CERN to the Clinic
Could recent developments in secondary ion mass spectrometry imaging revolutionize digital molecular pathology?
“I believe this approach could revolutionize digital molecular pathology, as well as peri-operative diagnostics in a true clinical translational setting. In other words, bridging the translational gap between fundamental mass spec research and pathology – by making tissue diagnoses more precise and rapidly improving precision medicine through more individually tailored therapies.”