Studies shed light on the versatility, precision, and sensitivity of quantitative analytical tools

Three independent studies in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Analysis explore the potential uses and applications of quantitative analytical tools in the characterization and quality assessment of biological and medicinal compounds. Collectively, the findings of those studies shed light on the versatility, precision, and high sensitivity of the techniques, which make them a valuable asset for clinical research and medicine.

Studies shed light on the versatility, precision, and sensitivity of quantitative analytical tools

New studies published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Analysis shed light on the advantages and diverse clinical applications of quantitative analytical tools in characterization and quality assessment. Photo courtesy: Unsplash

Quality assessment is crucial for determining the composition of clinically relevant compounds and drugs. This can be challenging using traditional analytical techniques, particularly if the formulation is complex and constitutes multiple components. Quantitative analytical tools like liquid chromatography (LC) and mass spectrometry (MS) enable rapid and sensitive chemical characterizations based on the size and properties of biomolecules, thus providing effective and accurate separation.

To understand the versatility of applications of LC-MS, you don’t need to look beyond the recent Journal of Pharmaceutical Analysis issue, which features three independent studies that illustrate the application of these techniques in three different fields.

Age-old Chinese traditional herbal remedies are now popular worldwide, in modern medical practices, pharmacology, and drug discovery. Given the diverse compositions of herbal formulations, their characterization is of utmost importance. However, traditional methods like chromatography alone are insufficient for this. In the first study, researchers from China explore the characterization of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) formulations using multiple reaction monitoring (MRM), an MS-based fingerprinting approach. As the lead scientists, Professors Yiyu Cheng and Xiaohui Fan, explain using an interesting analogy, “Video resolution of display devices has evolved from 1080p to 2K, 4K, or even 8K. You could say that our novel fingerprinting method is a "high-definition" method compared to existing techniques, that can offer a higher-resolution glimpse of chemical compositions and quality of complex herbal medicines.” Using this approach, the group has successfully characterized the TCM-derived drug QiShenYiQi, used for treating cardiac dysfunction. Their findings indicate that MRM is a robust and sensitive tool that can simultaneously detect multiple components in complex TCM derivatives.

The second study features a collaborative research team from Canada and Poland, who developed a novel procedure for the real-time tissue measurement of drugs administered in vivo using LC-MS. When administering drugs, close monitoring is essential to ensure that tissue levels are optimum; lower levels are likely ineffective, and higher doses can be toxic. The team developed a novel chemical biopsy tool using a solid phase microextraction probe, which absorbs compounds from tissue fluid that can be further analyzed using MS. The researchers tested this probe in a mouse model of lung perfusion, wherein doxorubicin was administered for treatment of lung metastases. Their technique could successfully measure real-time tissue levels of the drug in a simple and non-invasive manner. Professors Marcelo Cypel and Janusz Pawliszyn, the lead scientists, state, “This technology could help clinicians in the rapid detection and real-time measurement of biomarkers or drugs on-site, thus speeding up the decision-making process on further treatment. In the long run, this approach has potential to become a personalized medicine tool.”

In the third study and also the chief study in this issue, researchers from China have used high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)-MS to characterize “bioactive” compounds from the medicinal plant, Osmanthus fragrans. The fragrant plant has been widely used for extraction of essential oils, and medicinal properties of its fruits and roots are now being increasingly recognized. The plant is known to contain a mixture of several flavonoids, lignans, iridoids, and phenylethanols that collectively contribute to its fragrance and chemical properties. These constituents have, however, not been well characterized, given the fact that they are present in trace amounts. The researchers used the highly sensitive HPLC-MS technique for separation and identification of the chemical compounds. Furthermore, they used network pharmacology to validate the traditional pharmacological uses of the plants.

Our analysis shows that O. fragrans roots might be effective for the treatment of inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. This can aid the application of O. fragrans roots in medicinal preparations.”

Professor Zilin Chen, Lead Scientist

These studies shed light on the ease of use, sensitivity, robustness, and high-throughput function of the LC-MS techniques, and establish them as a useful resource in quality assessment and characterization, while barely scratching the surface of their potential.

Journal references:
  1. Li, Z., et al. (2021) An ultra-robust fingerprinting method for quality assessment of traditional Chinese medicine using multiple reaction monitoring mass spectrometry. Journal of Pharmaceutical Analysis.
  2. Bojko, B., et al. (2021) Solid phase microextraction chemical biopsy tool for monitoring of doxorubicin residue during in vivo lung chemo-perfusion. Journal of Pharmaceutical Analysis.
  3. Liao, X., et al. (2021) Identification and quantification of the bioactive components in Osmanthus fragrans roots by HPLC-MS/MS. Journal of Pharmaceutical Analysis.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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