Combined NMR and Mass Spec
There is increasing interest in combining NMR and MS as a means to improve data sensitivity and to fully elucidate the complex metabolome within a given biological sample. NMR and MS are two of the main analytical assays in metabolomic research.
Aalim Weljie, Ph.D., research assistant professor, department of pharmacology, University of Pennsylvania, maintains that combined NMR/MS has great promise for cancer biomarker discovery in the realms of diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.
For example, according to Dr. Weljie, in 10–15% of the cases, it is difficult to discern between benign and malignant pancreatic lesions. Using combined NMR and MS to measure the levels of nearly 250 separate metabolites in the patient’s blood, Dr. Weljie and other researchers at the University of Calgary were able to rapidly determine the malignancy of a lesion, while avoiding unnecessary surgery in patients with benign lesions. There are, however, certain limitations that must be addressed before NMR/MS data integration can be completely utilized.
When performing NMR and MS on a single biological fluid, ultimately “we are,” noted Dr. Weljie, “splitting up information content, processing, and introducing a lot of background noise and error and then trying to reintegrate the data…It’s like taking a complex item, with multiple pieces, out of an IKEA box and trying to repackage it perfectly into another box.”
It’s not easy. Due to the wide range of possible physiochemical properties, a biologically pure sample is immediately biased with the initial extraction of the metabolites. Further NMR and MS platform specific biases are then introduced into the sample.
By improving the workflow between the initial splitting of the sample, they improved endpoint data integration, proving that a streamlined approach to combined NMR/MS can be achieved, leading to a very strong, robust and precise metabolomic toolset.