How Spectroscopic Technologies are Changing Precision Medicine


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The fundamental basis of healthcare provision is changing. Although effective diagnosis and treatment are currently provided for numerous diseases, advances in bioanalytical technologies have opened up the possibility to further improve patient outcomes.

As the average age of populations continues to rise and the prevalence of chronic diseases increases, there are growing demands on finite healthcare resources. Attention has consequently been focussed on disease prevention and early intervention to reduce treatment requirements and also on providing more targeted treatment to optimize patient outcomes and increase the return on healthcare expenditure.

Such goals depend on in-depth molecular characterization of disease, which advances in molecular biology have made more readily achievable. This article will present some of the most recent advances in spectroscopic techniques that are facilitating rapid screening, diagnosis, and targeted treatment across a range of indications.

Precision medicine

Research into diseases at the molecular level has revealed considerable heterogeneity within a disease that impacts disease severity, rate of progression and treatment response. Treatment decisions must, consider the sub-category of disease into which a patient falls, in order to maximize treatment success. The concept of personalized medicine was thus born.

Precision medicine encompasses disease characterization on a person-by-person basis and the individual tailoring of treatment strategies according to a person’s specific pharmacogenomic profile that defines their response to drugs. The value of such an approach has already been made readily apparent, especially in the field of oncology. To maximize the impact of such strategies on patient outcomes early diagnosis is needed so the onset of more severe disease can be prevented or delayed.

Early diagnosis

Early identification of pathological changes can potentially provide the opportunity to prevent a disease from developing or defer or reduce the onset of debilitating symptoms. Such early intervention can both improve a patient’s quality of life and reduce the burden on healthcare resources.

The deposits of soluble amyloid-β peptide oligomers and neurofibrillary tangles found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease are apparent for up to 20 years before the onset of symptoms of cognitive decline [Langa and Burke 2019]. Early identification and reversal of these changes could potentially prevent or reduce the development of life-changing symptoms. Indeed, in preclinical studies, the onset of cognitive decline was delayed by reducing the number of cerebral amyloid plaques [Dou et al. 2018; Forloni and Balducci 2017]. Elucidation of the pathways involved in the neuropathological changes in Alzheimer’s disease will enable the development of a treatment that interferes with the process.

As part of the 31st James L Waters Symposium at Pittcon, Dr. Michael T Bowers will be detailing how ion mobility-mass spectrometry (IM-MS) techniques have facilitated the study of amyloid oligomer structure and assembly.

Detecting biomarkers

Disease diagnosis typically depends on the identification of suitable biomarkers that can be detected in biofluid samples rapidly and cost-effectively. This has proved difficult for some diseases. The differential diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease remains challenging and it is only possible to obtain a definitive diagnose on post-mortem examination.

Presentations at Pittcon, will detail research using the latest analytical technologies to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Lingjun Li will highlight the use of hydrophilic interaction chromatography for the detection of glycoprotein biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and Dr. Igor Lednev will describe a new patented approach for Alzheimer’s disease diagnostics that utilizes Raman hyperspectroscopy with machine learning to probe the total biochemical composition of bodily fluid.

Advances in spectroscopic techniques have also facilitated the non-invasive diagnoses of a range of cancers. A mass spectroscopy pen system has enabled rapid and accurate ovarian cancer diagnosis [Sans et al. 2019] and desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (DESI-MS) has successfully classified malignant thyroid carcinomas [DeHoog RJ, et al, 2019].

At Pittcon Dr. Cheng will present innovations in developing advanced chemical imaging modalities and show how this has been used for the non-invasive diagnosis of prostate cancer [Wu et al, 2019].

Molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) and plasmonic sensors have been used to develop the MIP-based plasmonic immunosandwich assay that accurately detects disease biomarkers without the limitations of current antibody- and enzyme-based immunoassays [Rongrong X, et al, 2019].

In his talk at Pittcon, Professor Liu will illustrate how the plasmonic immunosandwich assay approach is also a powerful tool for evaluating anti-cancer efficacy.

Find out more at Pittcon

The research and technologies highlighted here will be covered in more detail in the symposia, oral presentations and short courses at Pittcon. Check out the Pittcon guide to find out more about the sessions that will be taking place.

Numerous market-leading producers of bioanalytical technologies, products, and services, including BioRad, Bruker, GenTech Scientific, Malvern Panalytical, SCIEX, and Zeiss, will also be present at Pittcon to discuss the latest additions to their capabilities and address your specific analytical requirements.


Chang Z, et al. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making. 2019;19:article 198.

DeHoog RJ, et al. PNAS 2019;116(43):21401-21408.

Dou K-X, et al. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2018;10:126.

Forloni G and Baldacci C. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2018;62:1261–1276.

Langa KM, Burke JF. AMA Intern Med. 2019;179(9):1161-1162.

Rongrong X, et al. Anal. Chem. 2019;91(15):9993-10000.

Sans M, et al. Clinical Chemistry 2019;65(5): 674-683.

Wu J, et al. Chemrxiv 2019.

About Pittcon

Pittcon® is a registered trademark of The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, a Pennsylvania non-profit organization. Co-sponsored by the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, Pittcon is the premier annual conference and exposition on laboratory science.

Proceeds from Pittcon fund science education and outreach at all levels, kindergarten through adult. Pittcon donates more than a million dollars a year to provide financial and administrative support for various science outreach activities including science equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public science centers, libraries and museums.

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Last updated: Feb 1, 2024 at 7:37 AM


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