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Movements in Mass Spectrometry

By Allison Proffitt

August 8, 2007 | At the American Society of Mass Spectrometry in June in Indianapolis, a slew of new mass spec and liquid chromatography products and collaborations were introduced.

Agilent led the pack with the release of updated versions of several mass spectrometry (MS) products. MassHunter, the software that manages instruments, data acquisition, analysis and reporting from the Agilent 6410 Triple Quadrupole (QQQ) liquid chromatography/mass spectrometer system, is newly FDA compliant. Regulation 21CFR Part 11 defines parameters by which pharmaceutical companies can author, approve, store and distribute records electronically, and the MassHunter software will now manage that process for researchers.

MassHunter also picks up a software module to aid researchers in metabolite identification. MassHunter Metabolite ID software will be available in August.

To focus specifically on biomarkers, Agilent released the newest version of its GeneSpring MS application. Importing data from their QQQ system or from any mass spec instrument using data files in the mzXML format, GeneSpring MS 1.1 analyzes data for protein and metabolite biomarker discovery. The software provides statistical algorithms to profile proteins or small molecules associated with changes in cellular function.

On the hardware side, Agilent announced a new version of its Multiple Affinity Removal System (MARS) product, the Human-14. Touted as a breakthrough for biomarker discovery, Human-14 removes fourteen of the most abundant proteins from human blood and plasma that account for 94 percent of the total protein mass, so that researchers can focus on the remainder. Human-14 removes 95 to 99 percent of these high-abundance proteins, leaving the rest exposed for identification via liquid chromatography or centrifugation techniques. 

Agilent also announced enhancements to several of its mass spectrometers: the 6100 series, the 6210 QOF and 6510 QTOF, and the 1200 series HPLC-Chip/MS systems. Improvements include better resolution, identification accuracy, metabolite library matching, and tools designed to enhance LS/MS workflow.

PerkinElmer Life and Analytical Sciences introduced upgraded software for its ExacTag technology. Analysis software version 2.0 offers improved visualization and analysis tools. The software uses signal intensity measurements from low mass reporter ions generated in the collision cell of a tandem mass spec and relies on protein data from standard databases. The software supports multiple file formats for MS system compatibility.

Watershed Advances
With compatibility as a recurring theme, Waters announced several partnerships. For example, Waters is collaborating with Rosetta Biosoftware to develop interfaces between Rosetta’s Elucidator data analysis software and Waters’ Q-TOF (time-of-flight) Premium and Synapt MS systems. Dotmatics and Waters announced plans to develop an integrated structure elucidation tool to complement Waters TOF mass spectrometers and the Waters Synapt and MALDI (matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization) Synapt HDMS systems. The agreement will focus on developing a fully integrated solution for structural elucidation of small molecules based on Dotmatics and Waters MassLynx MetaboLynx Application Manager software.

Finally, Waters opened a new MS laboratory at the Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis at Northeastern University in Boston dedicated to studying protein shapes and characteristics.

Waters also announced several internal software and hardware upgrades. The Synapt family of mass spectrometers revealed a new member at the ASMS meeting: the MALDI Synapt high definition mass spectrometer (HDMS). The first commercially available MS system to incorporate MALDI (matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization) with ion mobility and ToF (time of flight) technology, Waters hopes that the MALDI Synapt will redefine how biologically significant molecules from drug metabolites to intact proteins are characterized.

Combining MALDI, ion mobility, and time-of-flight in one instrument allows for proteomics studies where scientists are studying protein misfolding diseases such as Huntington’s, Alzheimers, and CJD. The instrument is intended for researchers working at the limits of conventional MS who need to further characterize and define their samples.

“The thing that is really groundbreaking about this instrument is that we’ve added a new dimension of separation,” says Waters product manager, Ronan O’Malley. “But in contrast to previous advances in MS technology, there’s no risk because you can run all the old applications emulating a high end Q-TOF instrument and then when you’ve found the limits of that technology you can engage the ion mobility separation device and that opens up a world of new possibilities.”

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