|Type of paper:||Essay|
|Categories:||Research Biology Medicine|
Mass spectrometry (MS) refers to an analytical method used by various scientists to identify the mass-to-charge (m/z) ratio of fragments or whole molecules (Soderberg, 2019). Although different, the instruments in MS operate under a similar principle, and they share common functional parts. A typical mass spectrometer consists of three vital elements; an ionization part, which gas molecules into ions, a mass analyzer to sort the ions according to their mass, and a detector, which quantifies the ions present (Soderberg, 2019). The same technology is used in various investigative practices and data analysis in the medical field. MS is used to analyze biomolecules, as a diagnostic tool in pathogen research on diseases such as cancer, and in clinical treatment; also, it is used in mass spectrometric imaging and biomarker discovery (Vekey, Telekes & Vertes, 2011). This essay gives detailed information on the applications of MS technology in medical investigations and its impacts.
The MS technology has been instrumental in the study of biological markers, also known as biomarkers. Biomarkers are used to predict patient outcome, monitor response to administered treatment, and to confirm diagnostic tests (Heaney, Jones & Suzuki, 2017). According to a research article by Heaney, Jones & Suzuki (2017), success in the use of biomarkers depends on practices such as collection, analysis, and processing of bio-samples following a set protocol. Since MS is a powerful analytical tool for measurements on molecules, it becomes vital for the successful utilization of biomarkers. The research article stated that using MS techniques, small molecules (less than 50 u), as well as large molecular particles (greater than 10,000 u), can be measured accurately; therefore, the method is sufficient for biomarker analysis. The main advantage the MS method holds over traditional urine and blood measurement techniques is the new technology can be used to measure both volatile and nonvolatile molecules found in exhaled gas, saliva, secretions from the skin. Therefore, this technology offers accurate results for a wider variety of ignitable test specimens with enhanced efficiency. Also, MS-based techniques can detect biomarkers that are undetectable when alternative methods are used. An example case of successful utilization of biomarker discovery in the age of MS technology is the growing use of cardiovascular health markers. According to Crutchfield, Thomas, Sokoll & Chan (2016), cardiovascular health status can be evaluated through laboratory tests by using B-type natriuretic peptides to detect congestive heart failure, and cardiac troponin to detect myocardial infarction.
Beyond the past application of MS in proteomics to identify proteins and peptides, the technology is used in ovarian cancer research today (Swiatly, Plewa, Mtysiak and Kokot, 2018). In their research article, Swiatly et al. (2018), stated that the mortality rate of ovarian cancer patients could be reduced by advanced proteomics in biomarker discovery, and MS is part of the solution. The article indicated that up to date, the existing biomarkers for ovarian cancer are human epididymis protein 4 (HE4), and Cancer Antigen 125 (CA125). A discriminative model that combines the current biomarkers with new ones would be instrumental in enhancing their performance; together with capillary electrophoresis and liquid chromatography, MS offers the desired solution (Swiatly et al., 2018). SWATH-MS, a mass spectrometry tool, is used in proteomics to evaluate proteome changes, and other biological studies; as of 2017, the method was used in about 50 fundamental and thirteen clinical research publications (Anjo, Santa & Manadas, 2017). Therefore, MS is continually gaining popularity among biomedical science researchers.
MS is used in breath analysis to detect traces of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled air. Research by Patterson, Bayer, Hendry & Sellers (2011) utilized MS-based techniques to detect breast cancer by analyzing the breath from different subjects. In conducting the research, they compared the VOCs from the exhaled gases of twenty healthy people, and twenty stages II to IV breast cancer. After analysis using the mass spectrometry method, the results indicated that healthy people could be distinguished from healthy people due to the difference in VOCs. Therefore, the application of MS in breath evaluation can be instrumental in identifying health issues by studying sample VOCs from the air exhaled by different people, to spot any irregularities. Similarly, the analysis of VOCs is used to develop biomarkers for acute breathlessness, which is associated with cardiorespiratory (Ibrahim et al., 2019). Some of the instruments used in breath sampling are Gas Chromatography MS (GC-MS), Atmospheric Pressure Ionization-MS (API-MS), Proton Transfer Reaction MS (PTR-MS) Liquid Chromatography MS (LC-MS), and Gas Chromatography Ion Mobility Spectrometry (Ibrahim et al., 2019).
Various MS technologies are used in clinical laboratories for drug and toxic metal analysis (toxicology). CG-MS is used in clinical toxicology for blood and urine screening to detect acute overdose of both over the counter and prescription drugs; this move is valid for drugs with known toxic effects (Mbughuni, Jannetto & Langman, 2016). The method is also used to identify or quantify poisons in toxidromes, and to screen narcotics, barbiturates, anesthetics, antihistamines, sedative-hypnotics, stimulants, and anti-epileptic drugs (Mbughuni, Jannetto & Langman, 2016).
Although metals are essential elements which are useful for biological activities, some might contain poisonous characteristics. According to Mbughuni, Jannetto & Langman (2016), some metals may become toxic is they are exposed to pathologic metabolism. On the other hand, minerals such as mercury, lead, arsenic, and thallium are naturally poisonous, even when they are not exposed to any physiological process. Consequently, ICP-MS is used to evaluate toxic exposures in metals through isotope analysis, and to investigate their environmental sources. According to Mbughuni, Jannetto & Langman (2016), this evaluation creates a better understanding of the toxic risk exposed to people with metal implants.
The details on the applications of MS-based techniques in medical investigations reveal that the technology has dramatically impacted biomarker discovery and proteomics at large. Also, MS technology is useful in toxicology for poison detection in both drugs and metals. MS is helpful in the analysis of biomolecules and biomarkers since it makes measurement and evaluation of samples over a considerable range of atomic mass unit possible. Moreover, MS-based techniques are superior to traditional measurement methods since they apply to both volatile and non-volatile specimens. Through the discovery of biomarkers for ovarian cancer, various MS instruments are used to facilitate research on the disease, thereby advancing the existing knowledge on the condition, to decrease its mortality rate. With the aid of MS technology, analysis of exhaled gases can lead to the detection of diseases such as breast cancer. Also, MS-based techniques are used to investigate the level of toxicity in metals and medicinal drugs and narcotics. Therefore, although it is a technology adopted from chemistry, MS is a powerful analytical tool in the clinical laboratory and research.
Anjo, S. I., Santa, C., & Manadas, B. (2017). SWATH-MS as a tool for biomarker discovery: From basic research to clinical application. Proteomics, 17(3-4), 1600278. https://doi.org/10.1002/pmic.201600278
Crutchfield, C. A., Thomas, S. N., Sokoll, L. J., & Chan, D. W. (2016). Advances in mass spectrometry-based clinical biomarker discovery. Clinical Proteomics, 13(1), 1. https:doi.org/10.1186/s12014-015-9102-9
Heaney, L. M., Jones, D. J., & Suzuki, T. (2017). Mass spectrometry in medicine: a technology for the future? https://doi.org/110.4155/fsoa-2017-0053
Ibrahim, W., Wilde, M., Cordell, R., Salman, D., Ruszkiewicz, D., Bryant, L., ... & White, C. (2019). Assessment of breath volatile organic compounds in acute cardiorespiratory breathlessness: a protocol describing a prospective real-world observational study. BMJ Open, 9(3), e025486. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2018-05486
Mbughuni, M. M., Jannetto, P. J., & Langman, L. J. (2016). Mass spectrometry applications for toxicology. EJIFCC, 27(4), 272. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5282913/#!po=79.4118
Soderberg, T. (2019, June 5). Mass Spectrometry. Retrieved from https://che,.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Organic_Chemistry/Book%3A_Organic_Chemistry_with_a_Biological_Emphasis_(Soderberg)/Chapter_04%3A_Structure_Determination_I/4.1%3A_Mass_Spectometry
Swiatly, A., Plewa, S., Mtysiak, J., & Kokot, Z. J. (2018). Mass spectrometry-based proteomics techniques and their applications in ovarian cancer research. Journal of ovarian research, 11(1), 88. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13048-018-0460-6
Vekey, K., Telekes, A., &Vertes, A. (Eds). (2011). Medical Applications of Mass Spectrometry. Elsevier Science. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-51980-1.X5001-0
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