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


Three independent studies in the Pharmaceutical Analysis Journal explore the uses and potential applications of quantitative analytical tools in the characterization and quality assessment of biological and medicinal compounds. Collectively, the results of these studies highlight the versatility, precision and high sensitivity of the techniques, making them a valuable asset for clinical research and medicine.

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

Quality assessment is crucial in determining the composition of clinically relevant compounds and drugs. This can be difficult using traditional analytical techniques, particularly if the formulation is complex and consists of multiple components. Quantitative analytical tools such as liquid chromatography (LC) and mass spectrometry (MS) enable rapid and sensitive chemical characterizations based on the size and properties of biomolecules, thus providing efficient and precise separation.

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

Traditional Chinese herbal remedies are now popular around the world, in modern medical practice, pharmacology, and drug discovery. In view of the diversity of the compositions of the herbal formulations, their characterization is of the utmost importance. However, traditional methods like chromatography alone are insufficient for this. In the first study, Chinese researchers explore the characterization of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) formulations using multiple reaction monitoring (MRM), a fingerprinting approach based on MS. As the lead scientists, Professors Yiyu Cheng and Xiaohui Fan, explain using an interesting analogy, “Video resolution for display devices has gone from 1080p to 2K, 4K or even 8K. You could say that our new fingerprinting method is a “high definition” method compared to existing techniques, which can offer higher resolution insight into the chemical compositions and quality of complex herbal drugs. Using this approach, the group succeeded in characterizing the TCM-derived drug, QiShenYiQi, used to treat heart dysfunction. Their results 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, which developed a novel procedure for real-time tissue measurement of administered drugs in vivo using LC-MS. When administering drugs, close monitoring is essential to ensure tissue levels are optimal; lower levels are probably ineffective and higher doses can be toxic. The team has developed a new 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 lung perfusion model, in which doxorubicin was administered for the treatment of lung metastases. Their technique could successfully measure real-time tissue levels of the drug in a simple and non-invasive way. Professors Marcelo Cypel and Janusz Pawliszyn, the principal scientists, state, “This technology could help clinicians in the rapid detection and real-time measurement of biomarkers or drugs on site, thereby speeding up the decision-making process on whether to continue treatment. In the long term, this approach has the potential to become a tool for personalized medicine.. “

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

Our analysis shows that the roots of O. fragrans may be effective in the treatment of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. This can facilitate the application of the roots of O. fragrans in medicinal preparations.

Professor Zilin Chen, Senior Scientist

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


Journal references:

  1. Li, Z., et al. (2021) An Ultra-Robust Fingerprint Method for Quality Assessment of Traditional Chinese Medicine Using Multiple Reaction Monitoring Mass Spectrometry. Pharmaceutical Analysis Journal.
  2. Bojko, B., et al. (2021) Solid-phase microextraction chemical biopsy tool for monitoring doxorubicin residues during in vivo lung chemo-perfusion. Pharmaceutical Analysis Journal.
  3. Liao, X., et al. (2021) Identification and quantification of bioactive components in the roots of Osmanthus fragrans by HPLC-MS / MS. Pharmaceutical Analysis Journal.

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