Monthly Archives: July 2015

Adapting the Century-Old Mass Spectrometer for Modern Uses

mass-spectrometer-drug-discoveryLife cycles of inventions vary widely. Some inventions, like the hammer, prove to be useful for a variety of needs and stick around for millennia. Others, like the 8-track tape, wind up being useful for only a decade or so.

Fortunately for modern researchers, the mass spectrometer appears to be much more akin to the hammer than the 8-track tape. While the technology used to produce the modern mass spectrometer has advanced significantly in the past hundred years, the concept behind the tool itself has not changed, and we continue to discover new ways to apply it to our research.

The Importance of the Mass Spectrometer in DDD

As outlined in a Drug Discovery World article, use of the mass spectrometer in the drug discovery and development (DDD) process has been rich and varied. Many of the early efforts were associated with drug metabolism, pharmacokinetic, and pharmacodynamic studies. Twenty years ago, the focus was on using the mass spectrometer to characterize compounds from libraries, determine purity, and perform high-throughput screenings.

As a result of the success of efforts with proteomic and metabolomic profiling, all the major pharmaceutical companies purchased the latest mass spectrometers and developed a cadre of in-house technical experts.

More recently, the use of the extremely sensitive Accelerator-MS has meant that the in vivo metabolic distribution of a drug can be readily determined with minimal exposure levels of the radioactive compound.

The Importance of Truly Understanding the Mass Spectrometer

Researchers have predicted that even greater breakthroughs are just around the corner—and sometimes they’ve been right. It is critical, however, that researchers understand their tools, and this is as true of the mass spec as it is of other complex modern technologies. The tool is only useful in the hands of a trained operator. In DDD, for example, this means understanding that there is an inherent limitation in the mass spectrometer’s dynamic range, which can affect a differential sample analysis.

Fortunately, the pharmaceutical sector has learned valuable lessons and re-evaluated and refocused the role that the mass spectrometer plays in the DDD process. Just as a hammer is not useful to cut wood, it’s important to understand the limitations and capabilities of mass spec instrumentation, software, and firmware. For example, when using proteomic and metabolomic approaches, researchers must ask a specific biological question that requires a defined answer.

DDD professionals have realized that the mass spectrometer can continue to play a major role in certain areas of discovery and preclinical processes. They also now understand, however, that there is not much of a role for the MS to play in clinical development.

This is true in part because most of the research community applies different standards to the interpretation of data. Pharmaceutical companies, meanwhile, must ultimately satisfy stringent FDA regulatory requirements, and even MS/MS data analysis programs will not provide information that is completely accurate. There are ways to alleviate the shortcomings of the mass spectrometer, but this requires that researchers must be realistic in their expectations and practical in their decision-making processes.

Of course, the mass spectrometer is also only as good as the lab bench on which it sits. If the lab bench isn’t strong and stable enough, and doesn’t vent the hot air generated by its vacuum pumps, the mass spec could malfunction and one’s research would be made meaningless.

To make sure you’re using the best tools possible in the best way, contact us today to learn more about our dedicated lab furniture.

Accessorizing Your Mass Spectrometer or HPLC Bench

dedicated-lab-furniture-accessoriesWe recently visited the IonBench factory and had a chance to see firsthand all the various customizing options for our dedicated lab furniture. We thought that you might also find some of the accessories and options exciting—as well as excellent safety reminders—so we’re dedicating this post to the many different ways you can personalize your mass spectrometer or HPLC lab bench.

The Hole Story

We put a lot of holes in our benches. That might seem odd at first, but the fact is mass specs and HPLCs need a lot of connections. You’ve got vacuum pumps that need hose connections. You’ve got the HPLC waste line. You’ve got all sorts of wires and cords connecting different machines. And you don’t want any of those hoses and wires running down the front of the equipment, where they can get knocked or kinked.

That’s where the holes come in. We drill strategically placed holes wherever the client needs them, so their machines can be connected with optimum efficiency. Locations can vary from client to client; it all depends on how they’d like their labs set up and the model of equipment they are using.

Holes aren’t just for mass spectrometers and HPLCs either. We put a hole in the back of our keyboard drawers so that the keyboard connection to the computer doesn’t get caught in the drawer mechanism. And as we mentioned in a recent post, if you work in an earthquake zone, we can punch strap holes into the lab bench so you can strap down your HPLC and keep it stable during a seismic shift.

Betting on Brackets

Of course, sometimes you need to connect things to the bench, so we’ve got specialized brackets for that. For instance, there’s a bracket to connect a four-inch flexible duct, like a dryer hose, to vent warm exhaust air from the vacuum pumps out of the laboratory.

We’ve also got a bracket that will attach your computer to the side of our dedicated lab furniture. This helps keep your computer up and out of the way so it won’t accidentally get kicked, and also will keep it off the floor in case of flooding.

Pumping Up the Power

As space gets tighter in so many labs, we find our clients squeezing more things onto their dedicated lab furniture in addition to a mass spectrometer or HPLC. We can put eight standard 110-volt, 15-amp electrical sockets on the back of the IonBench, which simplifies connecting to your printer, monitor, and other electronic gadgets.

Various Other Options for Mass Spectrometer and HPLC Efficiency

Of course, that computer monitor needs a safe place to park itself, so we’ve got an adjustable monitor arm accessory. We also have a stainless steel tray with a half-inch lip all the way around it, designed to contain any oil that might leak out of your mass spec vacuum pumps. This is important, as vacuum pump oil can be contaminated by the sample being tested, which may potentially contain hazardous substances.

Lab benches are also work stations, so we can customize the number and size of your drawers, and even attach a lateral desk to create a bit more work space in a tight lab environment.

The bottom line is that we want our dedicated lab furniture to meet your needs. If you can think of an accessory that we haven’t mentioned here, give us a call and let’s talk about adding it to your next mass spectrometer or HPLC lab bench.

Keeping Your HPLC and Mass Spectrometer Safe in Earthquake Zones

earthquake-mass-spectrometer-safeRecently, a client reached out to us and asked how they could keep their mass spectrometer safe in an earthquake. We thought we’d share our answer, as some of our readers and clients—for instance those working in notorious earthquake zones like California or Japan—could no doubt benefit from the advice. While earthquakes are unpredictable and nothing is certain when it comes to protecting your equipment from them, here are our suggestions for keeping your mass spec and HPLC safe if your lab is in an earthquake zone.

Strap It Down

To start with, you can customize any of our IonBenches with strap holes. This allows you to strap your MS or HPLC to your dedicated lab furniture. For straps, you can use a smaller version of the same type of secure, flat strapping material that truckers use to strap down loads. These straps can handle sharp edges to some extent, so you’ll be able to safely strap down your equipment.

Now, the mass spectrometer is a pretty heavy machine with a lower center of gravity, so the chance of it falling off your lab bench, at least in a smaller earthquake, is reduced.

The HPLC, however, is another matter. When you’ve got a 40-inch-tall machine on top of a 34-inch-high piece of dedicated lab furniture, the equipment is standing six feet off the floor. The solvents at the very top, of course, are an additional hazard if they spill or if the HPLC itself topples over. For this reason, we highly recommend strapping down your HPLC if your lab is in an earthquake zone.

Don’t Lock It Up

Another recommendation made to us by some of our clients in earthquake prone areas is to leave the caster wheels unlocked on your dedicated lab furniture.

Naturally, we’ve put locks on our lab bench wheels because leaving the bench unlocked is not a good idea in general terms. If you bump up against a bench while a mass spectrometer is operating, the turbomolecular pump could be damaged, or even blow up. So if you don’t work in an earthquake zone, lock those wheels!

On the other hand, experience has shown that if you leave the wheels unlocked and the floor starts to shift, the bench absorbs some of the energy and moves in opposition to the floor. This means that the energy is not translated up to the instrument and it’s less likely to wobble or fall off.

So if you work in an earthquake zone, you might want to park your mass spectrometer in an out-of-the-way place—but not right up against a wall—and leave the casters unlocked.

Trust in IonBench’s Strength to Protect Your Mass Spectrometer and Other Lab Equipment

Of course, when we build the IonBench, we build it strong enough to sustain a lot of wear and tear. With a tubular steel structure and a work surface that’s over an inch thick, nothing is going to snap or break off should the bench strike any sort of object while it’s moving or if anything lands on it. This provides protection for the rest of your lab during an earthquake.

It’s also another reason to choose dedicated lab furniture for all of your lab equipment, not just the HPLC and mass spectrometer. For more information on our customizable lab benches, give us a call today.