Analysis of complex mixtures comes into focus

Sean Ottewell reports on the power, performance and flexibility of portable spectrometers and outlines many benefits they offer.

The successful installation of the world’s first 21 Tesla (T) magnet for Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) has been announced by Bruker and the US National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL) at Florida State University (FSU). 

According to Bruker, the installation represents the world’s highest field, persistent, superconducting magnet suitable for FT-ICR mass spectrometry (FTMS).

The 21T magnet was designed and built by Bruker in collaboration with NHMFL scientists, and will be used in the NHMFL FT-ICR programme in a project funded by the US National Science Foundation that will make cutting edge FT-ICR technologies available to the larger community of scientists.

FT-ICR is the highest resolution mass spectrometry technique available, and is useful in the analysis of extremely complex mixtures, including applications in dissolved organic matter (DOM), metabolomics, top-down proteomics, and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionisation imaging (MALDI).

As the performance of FT-ICR systems improves with increasing magnetic field, the 21T magnet is expected to enable further dramatic improvements in mass resolution, mass accuracy and dynamic range compared to the previous highest field of 15T.

Professor Alan Marshall, the Robert O Lawton professor of chemistry and biochemistry at FSU and director of the High Field FT-ICR programme at the NHMFL, pointed to three primary drivers for the new instrument.

First is faster throughput without loss of mass resolution for top-down proteomics. Second is an extension of the size and complexity of protein complexes whose contact surfaces are mapped by solution-phase hydrogen/deuterium exchange. Lastly is improved mass resolution and dynamic range for characterising compositionally complex organic mixtures.

He adds that the higher magnetic field should result in dramatic improvement (by factors of 40-100%) in FT-ICR MS figures of merit, including mass resolution and resolving power, mass accuracy, dynamic range, and data acquisition speed.

In another development, the Impact II system is the latest innovation in Bruker’s UHR-QTOF (ultra-high resolution quadrupole time-of-flight) mass spectrometry product line. It comes with what the company describes as industry-leading >50,000 full-sensitivity resolution (FSR).

Bruker says the new system offers further enhanced analytical performance levels for all applications where trace analysis from complex, high-background matrices is a challenge – such as proteomics, biomarker research, identification of impurities, or residue screening.

In detail, these include: faster and cost-effective analysis of sub-units of monoclonal antibodies, which can now be fully isotope resolved; sustainable identification and quantification performance for in-depth quantitative analysis of proteomics samples, including bottom-up proteomics, glycomics and the identification of post translational modifications (PTMs); and high-throughput proteoform screening of intact proteins with isotopic resolution up to 30kDa.

Boosting lab research

In the face of evolving demands from food and environmental testing laboratories to carry out research, AB SCIEX has introduced the Triple Quad 3500 enhanced basic mass spectrometry system.

It was developed following close consultation with customers who needed a modernised system capable of delivering quantitative performance at price affordable by both labs with a limited budget and those new to mass spectrometry technology.

The system uses AB SCIEX’s proprietary TurboV ion source and curtain gas interface in order to give labs consistent data quality over long runs with minimal downtime. It also carries a number of upgrades over the earlier API 3200 system, including faster scan speeds, improved polarity switching, enhanced sensitivity, updated electronics, and new data acquisition algorithms to maximise throughput and ensure that all targeted compounds are reliably detected in every injection.

Commenting on interest shown in the new system, Lauryn Bailey from AB SCIEX, said: “We are seeing the biggest uptake in high growth territories where price-to-performance of their analytical technology, along with application support to enhance their success, is highly essential. The capabilities of the Triple Quad 3500 system to meet - and in many cases exceed - regulatory requirements for food and environmental contaminant analysis, then combined with the MRM catalogues and application support that we offer to labs that are new adopters of mass spec, all bundled together at an affordable price-point, is resonating with labs and supporting their success for their method development and routine analysis needs.”

She is also finding that the new technology is being well received by customers who are new to mass spec because the company is supplying the Triple Quad 3500 with method development tools to help them adopt LC/MS technology with high success, and to analyse more compounds with faster turnaround times than they can achieve with conventional HPLC or other technologies.

“So far, the customers most interested in the 3500 system are those doing routine analysis of food and environmental contaminants, such as pesticides and veterinary drugs, looking to extend their lab’s capabilities and improve the analytical performance of their routine residue testing methods. The MRM catalogue and support packages have been key to their interest in the Triple Quad 3500 as a complete solution for their successful adoption of mass spec,” Bailey concluded.

For faster, more efficient analyses of functional biochemical assays and samples in biological matrices, Agilent recommends its RapidFire 365 high-throughput MS system.

For drug discovery organisations, the RapidFire provides automated high-capacity sample analysis, which the company says is a more successful approach to the high throughput screening (HTS) of challenging drug targets and a 10 times faster throughput for MS-based analyses such as in vitro absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion assays.

Waters opens global mass spec HQ in UK

Waters has officially opened its new, custom-built mass spectrometry HQ at Wilmslow in the UK’s North West.
The facility is designed and equipped to accelerate innovation in the technology, which the company points out has a huge impact on quality of everybody’s lives, from safeguarding food and water supplies to protecting the environment and advancing healthcare.

Brian Smith, Waters’ vice president of mass spectrometry operations, commented: “Our new mass spectrometry headquarters in Wilmslow marks our continued investment in the region and dedication to the North West. The new facility has been specially designed to enhance collaboration and drive innovation, building on the research and scores of patents that we have already accomplished in the field, right at the heart of where mass spectrometry first began, here in Manchester.”

The new site is the latest in a network of specialist technology and engineering firms in the North West that continue to lead the field of mass spectrometry. The region’s history started with John Dalton’s atomic theory in the early 1800s, which laid the foundations for mass spectrometry to develop. The North West is now seen as a global R&D hub for the specialist technique, with innovations from there making their way into laboratories around the world.

The new building, which took two years to build, draws together Waters’ existing mass spectrometry centres in the region consisting of more than 500 employees. The 2313m² building includes state of the art customer demonstration laboratories, R&D capabilities and an expanded manufacturing capacity.

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