Office of Science Researcher Develops New Mass Spectrometry Surface Techniques That Stimulates Wide Interest


A new surface desorption/ionization method for mass spectrometry that can be used to detect small biological molecules, developed by Scripps and LBNL researcher Gary Siuzdak, has received wide coverage. This technique has prospects for wide applications in clinical analysis of metabolites from blood and urine as well as adding to the arsenal of mass spectrometry approaches used to characterize biological molecules in basic research. The Nature paper was highlighted in reports in Chemical and Engineering News, Nature News Online, and the Royal Society (UK) of Chemistry website. The technique called Nanostructure-Initiator Mass Spectrometry (NIMS) that complements existing ionization /desorption techniques, uses a specially-prepared surface consisting of a nanosized holes impregnated with ‘initiator’ molecules. Samples are placed onto the surface, and then the initiator molecules are subject to a pulse of laser or a beam of ionizing energy which vaporizes the sample on the surface sample. Small biological molecules, such as low levels of drug metabolites, can be directly detected from a sample of tissue or blood as well as individual molecules in biological samples, down to the single-cell level.