Fundamental Flaw Found in GC-MS Technology; “Astoundinhg Results” from Scripps Research Institute Suggest Heat from GC-MS Process Can Dramatically Change the Chemical Composition of Samples

A new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) shows that a technology used in thousands of laboratories, called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), fundamentally alters the samples it analyzes. “We found that even relatively low temperatures used in GC-MS can have a detrimental effect on small molecule analysis,” said study senior author Dr. Gary Siuzdak, Senior Director of TSRI’s Scripps Center for Metabolomics and Professor of Chemistry, Molecular and Computational Biology. Using new capabilities within XCMS, a data analysis platform developed in the Siuzdak lab, the researchers observed small molecules transforming—and even disappearing—during an experiment meant to mimic the GC-MS process, throwing into question the nature of the data being generated by GC-MS. The study was published online on October 4, 2015 in Analytical Chemistry. The article is titled ““Thermal Degradation of Small Molecules: A Global Metabolomic Investigation.” For more than 50 years, chemists and biologists have used GC-MS to identify and measure concentrations of small molecules. When a sample is injected into a GC-MS system, it is heated and vaporized. The vapor travels through a gas chromatography column and the molecules separate, allowing the mass spectrometer to measure the individual molecules in the sample. Today, GC-MS is widely used in thousands of laboratories for tasks such as chemical analysis, disease diagnosis, environmental monitoring, and even forensic investigations. The new experiments were initiated when Dr. Siuzdak was preparing a short course for students at the American Society for Mass Spectrometry annual meeting. The question arose as to how heat from the GC-MS vaporization process could affect results, so Dr. Siuzdak and TSRI Research Associate Dr.
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