Mass Spectrometry / Metabolomics analysis

What is Mass Spectrometry-Based Metabolomics?

October 11, 2021
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        Metabolomics is the study of small molecules that allows exploring the chemical profile of a particular system. Using metabolomics is arguably one of the most informative ways to understand physiology by getting insights into the real-time stasis of a system. Such systems may include but are not limited to single cells, multicellular organisms, biofluids but also non-biological samples, such as water and soil.

        Metabolomics studies can be performed in multiple ways, but by far the most sensitive and specific way of doing it is by using Mass Spectrometry(Mass Spec). Mass Spec allows to measure, identify and quantify small molecules such as lipids, hormones, drug metabolites, just to name a few, with a staggering sensitivity. It’s not uncommon to achieve parts-per-trillion sensitivity, which is roughly equivalent to a single drop in the 20 Olympic-sized pools.

        With such a great sensitivity comes the downside of potential signal-of-interest contamination/masking with other molecules that can be present in the sample. One common way to increase the specificity of mass spectrometry and to reduce the sample complexity is the separation techniques such as liquid- and gas chromatographies (LC/GC). Those complexity reduction methods allow to “bin” small molecules based on their physical and chemical characteristics such as solubility and volatility. 

        Due to such amazing capabilities, Mass Spectrometry-based metabolomics is one of the most important techniques used in biotech, pharma, hospitals, academics, and chemistry labs around the world. Applications of the Mass Spec-based metabolomics are endless and include drug development, patient cohort stratification, food/environmental testing, biomarker discovery, bioprocesses monitoring, e.t.c. However, the methodology is usually confined to large institutions with big budgets because of the high cost and expertise required to operate and interpret the data. In the recent decades and with technological advances there has been a dramatic reduction of the cost of mass spectrometry, especially in recent years. (Aksenov AA, et al, Nature Reviews Chemistry, 2017)  

With a cost reduction below 100$ per sample, mass spectrometry-based metabolomics is becoming more and more affordable. It’s not unreasonable to anticipate that many smaller labs, including start-ups and small manufacturing facilities, will begin to explore this technique to aid their work and increase productivity, by providing actionable insights into their systems of interest. This is an exciting time to begin shopping around for the service provider in the field:

Here are some tips on how to choose the service provider in mass spectrometry-based metabolomics:

    1. Track record. Choose a company with a strong team in the operation. Usually, a company’s website will provide information about what key people are in the operations. Check their credentials and academic track record
    2. Relevance. With the broad range of fields to which mass spectrometry-based metabolomics can be applied, it is of the utmost importance to choose a company with experience in your particular area of research. Additionally, look for the company’s portfolio of completed projects to gain insight into their scopes
    3. Testimonials. Find reviews of the company’s work online and on websites such as Google and Yelp. Even though metabolomics providers are not always reviewed on consumer platforms, there is a chance that they are
    4. Partnerships. High-profile and reputable companies will always have partners they rely on to do good business. Search the target provider’s website for signs of partnerships with other businesses from the relevant fields

We will be happy to help you with your metabolomics needs. From experimental design to sample collection, analysis, and the interpretation of the results – we have it all.

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