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Mass Spectrometry, Its Usefulness In Clinical Laboratory And Research

Mass spectrometry (MS) is an analytical technique that ionizes chemical species and sorts the ions based on their mass-to-charge ratio. In simpler terms, a mass spectrum measures the masses within a sample. Its characteristics have raised it to an outstanding position among analytical methods such as unequalled sensitivity, detection limits, speed, and diversity of its applications.The most recent applications are mostly oriented toward biochemical problems, such as proteome, metabolome, high throughput in drug discovery and metabolism, and so on. Other analytical applications are routinely applied in pollution control, food control, forensic science, natural products, or process monitoring.The major contribution to this ongoing revolution in microbiology is being brought about by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight MS (MALDI-TOF MS). Its ability to analyze whole bacterial cells with virtually no sample preparation has drastically improved the time to identification of a positive culture (1–2 min, starting with a colony) especially when it is performed directly on positive blood cultures (1 hr, owing to the extraction protocol).

Nevertheless, rapid identification of bacterial pathogens directly from the blood of septic patients remains a challenge. MS is also transforming the practice of laboratory medicine by increasing the analytical specificity and sensitivity for e.g. measurements of testosterone and other sex steroids have been highly recommended for detection by it. The measurement of testosterone in children and adults of both sexes is important in the diagnosis and management of numerous conditions (e.g., infertility, certain cancers, virilization, and polycystic ovary syndrome).

The point in favour of use of MS by a researcher going for quantification of molecule is that in combination with liquid chromatography (LC), LC-MS can deliver highly precise and accurate quantification. Also one can go for multiplex molecule quantification for e.g. amino acid analysis where 33 amino acids are analyzed in 15 minutes and pesticide screening where 100s of pesticides can be quantified in one run. Again when we try to compare it with western blot, MS wins as by former only one sample at a time can be quantified but thousands of sample at one time in case of MS can be quantified and that to without supervision. Coupled with appropriate bioinformative program it is the best technique to profile a sample or to verify the effects of a treatment on a living organism, therefore  with MS one can perform proteomics, lipidomics, and/or metabolomics experiments and lift their research projects to new heights.

The advancement of this technology along with the development of new applications has only accelerated the incorporation of mass spectrometry into more areas of medicine and subsequently increases in platform for research people. Clinical integration of MS has being enhanced through the development of instruments intended for use at the point-of-care (PoC). PoC devices are vital for rapid identification and characterization of biomarkers, with the modification and miniaturization of MS-based systems driving a real potential for the implementation of MS at the bedside. Since time is money, so when time is saved, money is saved. Whereas in conventional molecular technique same test is required to be repeated several times, MS requires no repetition due to its robustness, reproducibility and accuracy.

With the limits of MS being continually expanded, it seems highly likely that in the future it will provide solutions for bacterial identification even before in vitro culture. So, also from research point of view it’s a huge boost if MS is used to perform research on well defined projects and publications on the results can be more authentic and praiseworthy. Research papers published on more clinically applied MS methods in scientific journals will increase its use in clinical laboratory and thus will also authenticate its reliability. Last but not the least, MS is a high power, high resolution sequencing of sample and a fastest technology to be used for a perfect result.

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