Improved method of mass spectrometry

Monday, 24 March, 2014

Scientists at the Institute of Immunology of the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have improved the analytical method of mass spectrometry - a highly sensitive measurement technique for the analysis of chemical and biological materials. They have also developed a software program for the integrated analysis of measurement data.

Through analysis of proteomes, it is possible to obtain a comprehensive picture of the proteins and peptides present in cells or body fluids. However, many of the traditional mass spectrometric methods used for proteomic analysis are relatively slow and do not always provide reproducible results.

Dr Stefan Tenzer and his colleagues have perfected a data-independent technique that facilitates very accurate and reproducible quantitative analysis. Writing in the journal Nature Methods, the researchers stated how their new workflow allows them to identify and quantify significantly more proteins than before.

“Figuratively speaking,” said Dr Tenzer, “the equipment we use is as exact as a scale that can tell whether a two-euro coin is present in a VW Beetle or not.”

Dr Tenzer’s group focuses in particular on developing novel techniques for quantitative proteomic analysis with the aid of ion mobility mass spectrometry. This technique allows them not only to measure the mass of a molecule but also to determine its cross-section. This additional analytical dimension renders the technique optimally suited to the comprehensive investigation of highly complex samples.

Dr Tenzer and his colleagues have also enhanced the technique known as label-free quantification, which eliminates the need for samples to be labelled in the laboratory before being analysed. The scientists’ ISOQuant software program provides standardised analysis of complex data material and generally simplifies the technique of quantitative mass spectrometric analysis.

“We are now able to directly analyse patient samples and specific immune cells without prior cost-intensive preparation,” said Dr Tenzer.

The innovations were developed under the aegis of the technology platforms ‘Quantitative Proteomic Analysis’ of the JGU Research Center Immunology (FZI) and ‘ProTIC’ of the Research Unit Translational Neurosciences (FTN) at the Mainz University Medical Center. According to Professor Robert Nitsch, coordinator of the FTN, mass spectrometry has “become indispensable within the field of the neurosciences” and “we specifically need highly sensitive analytical techniques”.

“The collaboration between the Research Center Immunology and the Research Unit Translational Neurosciences in the field of mass spectrometry represents an excellent opportunity for us to gain new insights into the way the brain functions,” he said.


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