23 Oct, 2020

Blood samples provide a enormous amount of data about an individual’s medical condition. Now, Israeli researchers have developed a new and inexpensive way for labs to analyze the chemical composition of blood samples in just 30 seconds that could speed up the early diagnosis of diseases. The first application to be tested will be the early detection of various cancerous tumors based on blood tests. 

The technique was developed by Prof. Tomer Shlomi of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa Faculties of Computer Science and Biology (who is also a member of the Lorry I. Lokey Center for Life Sciences and Engineering) and doctoral students Shoval Lagziel and Boris Sarvin. The new method shortens the analytic process by about 98% and reduces its cost by a similar rate. Based on a unique combination of mass spectrometry and computational methods, innovative technology was recently described by the team in the journal Nature Communications under the title: “Fast and sensitive flow-injection mass spectrometry metabolomics by analyzing sample-specific ion distributions.” 

A mass spectrometer is widely used to determine the concentrations of molecules in biological samples. The use of this device usually requires a preliminary process called chromatography, which involves the separation of the materials in the sample according to chemical properties.

Chromatography, which increases the sensitivity of the spectrometric measurement, is time-consuming and thus makes the process expensive. Analyzing just one sample typically costs hundreds of dollars. As a result, a way was needed to skip the chromatographic step without compromising the ability to identify many molecules and quantify their concentrations.

In the current study, Shlomi’s research group presented a technique that skips the chromatography step and makes it possible to directly use mass spectrometry without significantly impairing the quality of the analysis. 

The novelty, explained Shlomi, involves the use of a computational method they developed that identifies optimal working configurations in the mass spectrometer. This allows for a high-sensitivity analysis for specific types of biological samples. The computational analysis also corrects the measured raw information and accurately quantifies concentrations of thousands of molecules in blood samples.