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Bronze Age trade. GC-MS analysis of organic residues in ceramic bottles appear to have revealed an ancient trade in scented oils as long ago as the third millennium BCE. The ceramic bottles, excavated from an archaeological site in Turkey, were suspected to have contained liquid, but no researchers had analyzed the residues inside them – until now! GC-MS identified the presence of dicarboxylic and oleic acids and palmitic acid in most samples – suggesting that they may have mostly contained a plant-based oil. Diterpenoids also showed the addition of ingredients like conifer resin and other plant-derived products. This is the oldest evidence for trade in such commodities in that region, highlighting the importance of GC-MS in archaeological investigations.

Keeping watch. Could we carry monitors on our wrists to give us a wider window into our personal health? According to a recent study, simple silicone wristbands could do exactly that! Researchers used a new ambient sampling method dubbed silicone wristband electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (SWESI-MS) to characterize human exposure to environmental chemicals (the exposome) and metabolites excreted in sweat. Analytes were detected directly from the surface of the wristband in a similar way to paper spray mass spectrometry. Typical sweat metabolites were found, as well as some metabolites that hinted at the potential for the wristbands as clinical monitors. The authors specified that further research is needed, but believe the wristbands show promise as noninvasive, wearable samplers that deliver individual profiles able to identify health risks posed externally and internally.

Why men are at higher risk from COVID-19. Sex-specific differences in Treg cells could explain why men seem to have a higher risk of COVID-19 infection, according to research from Osaka University, Japan. Using single-cell proteomics, they showed that patients with COVID-19 have changes to the ratio between circulating Tfr cells – a subset of the Treg cell population responsible for control of antibody production – and a network of other cells associated with the production of antibodies. Females had more circulating Tfr cells while males had higher antibody levels, which could underlie the dysregulated antibody production seen in COVID-19 – particularly in males. 

Mummifying the mammogram. Mammography (and biopsy) is the gold standard for screening and diagnosis; but it exposes individuals to radiation, has limitations to its sensitivity and specificity, can be uncomfortable, and can be culturally unacceptable. In search of an alternative, researchers from Middlesex University, UK, combined bottom-up proteomics and Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (MALDI MS) to detect breast cancer from fingertip smears. After applying the mass spectral dataset to statistical analysis and machine learning approaches, the highest performing predictive method was 97.8 percent accurate.

Also in the news...

H-NMR spectroscopy and UHPLC-MS data reveal that gut microbiota impacts serological responses to COVID-19 vaccines in immunocompromised inflammatory bowel disease patients. Link

Novel WT-ESI-MS technique – combining wooden-tip electrospray ionization and mass spec – show potential as a simple, rapid, and effective analytical tool for investigating thyroid cancer and other diseases. Link

LC-MS/MS reveals genetic and proteomic alterations from e-cigarette smoking – including changes in proteins relating to immune function and cell death. Link 

DART-HRMS and chemometric approaches allow rapid, high-accuracy differentiation of C. sativa hemp and cannabis plant material with an accuracy of 98 percent. Link

Pilot study using MALDI-MSI demonstrates that proteins are not evenly distributed in human teeth – adding a spatial dimension to the study of proteins in archaeological remains. Link 

Qiqihar Medical University team combine LC-MS and 1H-NMR metabolomics to screen factors of accelerating schizophrenia relapse – identifying phenylalanylphenylalanine as a key biomarker. Link 

Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spec imaging leads Sydney researchers to conclude that metal toxicants play a role in multiple sclerosis by weakening blood–brain barrier. Link

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About the Author
Margot Lespade

Associate Editor, The Analytical Scientist

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