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Techniques & Tools Mass Spectrometry, Clinical, Environmental, Pharma & Biopharma, Metabolomics & Lipidomics

What’s New in Mass Spec?

Reverse metabolomics progress. Emily Gentry – in collaboration with Erin Baker, Pieter Dorrenstein and others – started working on her “reverse metabolomics” project in 2018. The idea is to acquire MS/MS spectra data from newly synthesized compounds, which are then searched for in public metabolomics data to uncover phenotypic associations. Over the past five years, Emily and colleagues found 145 new candidate bile acids in animals and humans – and a new biomarker and therapeutic target for inflammatory bowel disease. Check out Pieter Dorrenstein’s helpful thread on the research.

History goes through… the stomach. Studying the diets of ancient civilizations can reveal more than just culinary habits – bridging everything from lifestyle to religion, via environmental and social changes over the centuries. As ancient foodcrusts are often found in archaeological pottery, careful analysis is required to avoid destruction of the sensitive specimen. And that’s why researchers from China combined turned to gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to gather multiomic data from pottery artifacts found in the Xiawan site of Taihu Lake, China. The team used mass spec lipidomic analysis as a pre-screening method prior to proteomic analysis and identified a variety of fish and ruminant proteins from the organic residues – suggesting the Xiawan ancestors were involved in fishing, millet agriculture, and possibly the domestication of pigs. 

"The application of lipid analysis in Chinese archaeology is still in its initial stage, but it will undoubtedly promote the development of Chinese archaeology and enhance the research of ancient civilization," said principal investigator Yang Yimin in a press release.

Mission possible. Approximately 241 million people are infected with the malaria-causing Plasmodium parasites every year – mainly in sub-Saharan and Asian countries. Daniel Bressborn and colleagues developed a fully automated extraction system equipped with LC-MS/MS to improve administration of piperaquine – one of the most common antimalarial treatments – in remote areas with limited access to equipment and electricity. The method was adapted for quantification of the drug in dried blood spots to also enable sampling in young children, toddlers, and infants who may not be able to provide large blood volumes – with the recommended sample volume being 50 µL. “The LC-MS/MS quantification limit of 3 ng/mL is sensitive enough to detect piperaquine for up to 4-8 weeks after drug administration, which is crucial when evaluating recrudescence and drug resistance development,” report the team in their recent paper.

Hair care catastrophe. Hair products contain various ingredients, including VOCs. Some of these compounds, such as cyclic volatile methyl siloxanes (cVMS), may be harmful when inhaled. In an attempt to learn more about cVMS, a team of researchers measured VOC concentrations with proton-transfer-reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry – discovering that combined heat and hair styling products rapidly changes the in-door air chemical composition. Further studies are required to test the long-term health impacts of exposure to cVMS.

In Other News...


Researchers use desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry imaging to visualize the signal intensity of drugs in different brain regions following the intranasal administration of two drug delivery systems. Link

Native mass spec and mass photometry advance traditional venom characterization analysis – successfully profiling the venom of forest cobras, paving the way for -omics based investigations of snake venoms for antidote treatments. Link 

Researchers from the US introduce acoustic droplet ejection multiple reaction monitoring-mass spectrometry (ADE-MRM-MS) – a sensitive sampling technology enabling >100-fold throughput enhancement for pharmaceutical processing. Link 

PFAS were detected for the first time in unhatched eggs of the endangered turtle species Caretta caretta, following analysis with high resolution MS; the authors stress the need to monitor PFAS contamination in accordance to time trends. Link  

Physicists demonstrate for the first time the use of superconducting nanowires as detectors for protein beams in quadrupole mass spectrometry. Link

Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MSn) with nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy reveal structures of eight sucrose ester isomers in tobacco. Link

Snake Image Credit: Rawpixel.com

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About the Author
Markella Loi

Associate Editor, The Analytical Scientist

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