Bioanalysis Zone

Mass spectrometry in medicine: a technology for the future?



Biological markers, or ‘biomarkers,’ have application in diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic investigations, with an ever-increasing catalog of endogenous biological entities such as proteins/peptides, lipids and metabolites being used in clinical settings. Uses of biomarkers include diagnostic rule in/out tests (e.g., high-sensitive troponin for acute myocardial infarction [1]), risk stratification/prediction of patient outcome (e.g., natriuretic peptides in cardiovascular diseases [2]) and monitoring of response to administered medicines (e.g., metabolic signatures of pharmacological interventions [3]). The use of biomarkers, and subsequently their success in improving personalized clinical information, relies on the collection, processing and analysis of biological samples which should be done to an established protocol. MS, an analytical technology capable of measurements with high levels of reproducibility, precision and accuracy, has received recent interest in clinical research for its potential to extend current capabilities in biomarker discovery, development and validation [4]. Technological advances are not without pitfalls, with delicate balancing of cost-to-benefit and cross-site reproducibility required to justify more widespread implementation. This editorial looks to highlight the major advantages of MS in the clinical laboratory, explain the major hurdles in place and provide an insight into the potential applications for clinical biomarker analysis.

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