Mass spectrometry is helping medical research in many other ways as well, including exciting work being done in the United States.
Scientists at the Shimadzu Institute for Research Technologies and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at The University of Texas (UT), at Arlington, have used the technology to develop a new method for detecting trace amounts of estrogen in small samples. The hormone estrogen has been linked to everything from tumour growth to neuron loss during Alzheimer’s disease but detecting very small amounts in blood and other biological fluids can be difficult. To address that, a UT Arlington research team used advanced mass spectrometry and chromatography instrumentation at the Shimadzu Institute to develop a method for detecting trace amounts at less than 10 parts per trillion in a 100 microliter sample, equivalent of a drop of water in 20 Olympic-size swimming pools. Mass spectrometry and chromatography were used to separate, identify, and quantify molecules in a complex mixture.
Kevin Schug, Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry at UT Arlington, said: “We are dealing with extremely small quantities and there are a lot of things out there that look like estrogen. You have to have this ability to separate these individual components and detect them accurately.” Jana Beinhauer, a visiting scientist from Palack University in the Czech Republic who spent nine months working at UT Arlington, and lead author on the paper outlining the findings, said: “Estrogens perform important biological functions not only in sexual development and reproduction but also in modulating many other processes impacting health and diseases in human and animals,.
“The metabolically active estrogens exert strong biological activities at very low circulating concentrations. Therefore, this research is very important for finding sensitive, efficient, fast, automated and simple method how to determine the trace estrogens in serum.” Jose Barrera, Director of the Shimadzu Institute and a co-author on a new paper outlining the findings, said: “This new method pushes the detection limit for estrogens to a level that is applicable to research, human health, medicine, and environmental analysis.”
The technology promises, it would seem, to keep pushing the barriers even further. “This new method pushes the detection limit for estrogens to a level that is applicable to research, human health, medicine, and environmental analysis”
Jose Barrera , Director of the Shimadzu Institute