Wavelength Tech Forum: Mass Spectrometry

May 13, 2008

This month's Technology Forum looks at the topic of mass spectrometry and the trends and issues surrounding it. Joining us for this discussion are Gary Impey, Senior Manager in Applied Biosystems' Proteomics and Small Molecule Division, and Dominic Gostick, Director of Product Marketing for Biomarkers and Proteomics at Applied Biosystems.

This month's Technology Forum looks at the topic of mass spectrometry and the trends and issues surrounding it. Joining us for this discussion are Gary Impey, Senior Manager in Applied Biosystems’ Proteomics and Small Molecule Division, and Dominic Gostick, Director of Product Marketing for Biomarkers and Proteomics at Applied Biosystems.

Have there been any major changes or advances in the mass spectrometry field in the past year?

(Impey) Two recent developments have to do with MALDI application workflows. The speed of analysis is a necessity in many laboratories, so the introduction of MALDI-Triple Quadrupole technology for quantitative applications is pushing the limits - as fast as one to five seconds per sample. Another advancement in the past year has been the development of easy-to-visualize imaging software that allows the visual inspection of drug and metabolite localization within tissue samples.

How large of an effect has the increased speed of analysis had on mass spectrometers?

(Impey) Speed is becoming the driving force in almost all application areas. This increased speed has pushed the limitations of mass spectrometers, but also has increased the development of more intelligent software algorithms to collect relevant, better quality data more efficiently.

What new developments on the mass spectrometry horizon have intrigued you?

(Impey) What has intrigued me is the development of more intuitive, application-specific software for acquisition, processing, and data review to help turn large amounts of data produced on mass spectrometers into meaningful results with minimal effort.

What obstacles stand in the way of mass spectrometry development?

(Impey) ) I don’t think there are obstacles or limitations in mass spectrometry, as new application uses for MS are continuously emerging. Consider tissue imaging techniques, for example. However, ancillary equipment needed to make a complete value-added workflow is often the limitation. New innovations in up-front equipment, such as autosampler technology - in terms of speed and carryover, for instance - will be able to unleash this bottleneck.

What is new and exciting in the field of proteomics?

(Gostick) Targeted quantitative proteomics is new and exciting in proteomics. In recent years, discovery proteomics had been seen to be somewhat irreproducible, particularly in larger multi-lab studies. Over the past year we have seen an increase in targeted MRM assays for large sub-sets of proteins, such as cardiovascular markers in serum or large numbers of human kinases, that have really shown the utility of this workflow. The approach of MRM-based protein assays is being verified by proteomics organizations, such as HUPO and the NCI-funded CPTAC, as they search for technologies to standardize on to improve the overall robustness, reproducibility and consistency of the proteomics results. However, one of the remaining challenges of Targeted Proteomics is developing MRM assays to proteins without having to generate hundreds of synthetic peptide or protein standards.

What do you think?

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