Mass spectrometry, a technique used to determine the composition of chemical substances by accurately measuring their molecular masses, has become an indispensable tool in pharmaceutical research and life sciences. The latest issue of the Journal of Pharmaceutical Analysis features three articles on cutting-edge research involving the use of mass spectrometry to study the compounds present in biological systems.
The first study, conducted by researchers from China, was made available online on 20 September 2021 and published in Volume 12, Issue 5 of the journal in October 2022. The team focused on a plant with a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine, called Salvia miltiorrhiza Bge (SMB). Using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI), they mapped the spatial distribution and relative content of various metabolites in the plant’s roots. Their main goal was to shed light on how continuous cropping of SMB significantly affects the plant’s metabolic signature, which may not only hinder its growth but also affect its medicinal properties. “Exploring the spatially resolved synthesis of metabolites in SMB could help us improve the quality of artificially cultivated plants and drugs derived from them more efficient,” the researchers commented.
In the second study, which was made available online on 26 May 2022 and published in Volume 12, Issue 5 of the journal in October 2022, researchers from China focused on yet another Chinese medicinal herb: Astragali Radix (AR). Although AR root has immunoregulatory effects, not much is known about its active ingredients. The researchers tackled this problem using a comprehensive cell membrane chromatography (CMC) and a time-of-flight mass spectrometry system. They immobilized natural killer (NK) cell membrane fragments in a stationary artificial cell membrane phase before packing them in a CMC column for the mass spectrometer. After passing an AR extract through the mass spectrometer, the researchers identified nine potentially immunoactive compounds. Finally, they pinpointed two NK-regulatory substances via experiments on NK cell cultures. The proposed screening strategy could accelerate the discovery of new drugs, as the researchers remark: “This screening method is a promising way to obtain therapeutic drugs candidates, which will hopefully provide patients with more effective and less toxic drugs.”
In the third and final study, which was made available online on 24 June 2022 and published in Volume 12, Issue 5 of the journal in October 2022, researchers from Korea and China developed a promising approach for deep lipidome profiling based on mass spectrometry. Their strategy is mainly centered around combining multiple data acquisition modes and using the results to annotate hundreds of different lipids. The researchers performed deep lipidome profiling in the Caenorhabditis elegans flatworm, a well-established animal model, and analyzed how lipids and lipid-related pathways were affected by toxic substances. “There is a growing demand for large-scale lipid profiling tools, which play a vital role in the study of disease mechanisms as well as biological functional analysis,” highlight the researchers, “Our approach can detect a variety of lipid classes and could therefore be a promising starting point for research hypothesis generation and phenotype confirmation.”
It’s impossible to deny the vast and versatile applications of mass spectrometry in pharmaceutical research, and only time will tell what other amazing feats scientists achieve using it!
Authors: Chenglong Sun1,2, Li Cui1,2, Bingqian Zhou1,2, Xiao Wang1,2, Lanping Guo3, and Wei Liu1,2
1School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Qilu University of Technology (Shandong Academy of Sciences)
2Key Laboratory for Applied Technology of Sophisticated Analytical Instruments of Shandong Province, Qilu University of Technology (Shandong Academy of Sciences)
3Resource Center of Chinese Materia Medica, State Key Laboratory Breeding Base of Dao-di Herbs, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences
Journal of Pharmaceutical Analysis
Method of Research
Subject of Research
Animal tissue samples
Visualizing the spatial distribution and alteration of metabolites in continuously cropped Salvia miltiorrhiza Bge using MALDI-MSI
Article Publication Date
There are no conflicts of interest to declare.