Mass spectrometry breakthrough
Prague/Jena – German and Czech researchers under Ales Svatos have opened the door to major improvements in the application of high-throughput metabolomics and systematic analyses of small molecules via MALDI-mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS). Their novel MAILD technology, presented in PNAS (doi: 10.1073/pnas.0900914106), circumvents the formation of disturbing low molecular weight ions during ionisation of the analyte, which can significantly limit the detection of metabolites in blood samples, cells or other biological materials. The scientists see a huge range of potential applications for their invention, especially in medical diagnostics. As in MALDI-MS, the new technique makes use of co-crystallisation of analytes with a matrix that forms ions after irradiation with a laser beam. These are then detected by measuring of flight times in an electrical field. MALDI-MS matrices, however, are at a substantial disadvantage, since the laser beam not only forms ions from the substances of interest, but also forms low-mass ions (<500 Da) originating from the matrix. Interfering matrix-related ions are not generated with the new technique. Using it, the researchers were able to quickly and reliably determine more than 100 different analytes from single and small-sized samples.