Celebrating 2016’s Mass Spectrometry Life Sciences Breakthroughs

possibleFolks in scientific communities around the world are looking ahead to the challenges and eventual breakthroughs that await them this year. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we’d like to look back and celebrate the achievements of the previous year. We know that our dedicated lab furniture supported (literally!) thousands of different mass spectrometry projects in 2016.

Here are some prolific life sciences breakthroughs that occurred last year with the help of mass spec technology:

Bio-printed Kidney Tissue Avoids Renal Toxicity

3D printing continues to transform lives across the globe in a magnificent variety of ways. In 2016, Organovo bio-printed synthetic human tissue that can model complex organ toxicity. This allows for more accurate drug-response testing without the variations that occur with species-species variations or limited kidney functionality. The native human structure provides optimal transporter activity and cellular function, enabling a close study for multiple weeks of both architecture and biological responses.

The bio-printed tissue-like complexity supports the detection of injury, compensation, and recovery.

Leveraging Lipids to Predict Outcomes

Mass spectrometry is useful only if you know what markers to measure. In late 2016, a group of scientists published their life science work with burn patients, revealing a connection between lipidomics and clinical outcomes. They discovered that adipose tissue functions enhance hypermetabolism in traumatic situations, identifying specific free fatty acids which were initially measured at acutely elevated levels and slowly returned to baseline status over time. Impaired acute response in unsaturated free fatty acids was found in patients with greater burn severity or increased age. Furthermore, a significant elevation of saturated and mono-unsaturated free fatty acids correlated with increased mortality.

Mass spectrometry lipidomics can consequently indicate critical diagnostic outcomes in burn patients.

Two Steps Forward in Tackling the Zika Virus

The Zika Virus was attacked on multiple fronts in 2016, and mass spectrometry’s role in this life science puzzle proved highly beneficial. Development is underway for a rapid diagnostic tool that will both detect and confirm the presence of Zika within a small blood or saliva sample. Using a similar protocol that detects HIV/AIDS, scientists are splitting the sample for antibody detection as well as molecular amplification. Since the Zika genetic profile degrades quickly, amplification provides the possibility of prolonging detection through analytical sensitivity.

On the treatment side of this life science equation, Purdue University researchers have mapped the structure of the Zika virus, which has similarities to and is often confused with the dengue virus. Utilizing cryo-electron microscopy, researchers have discovered potential areas of the virus that could lead to antiviral or antibody treatment development options as well as providing keys for distinguishing Zika from dengue.

Mass Spectrometry Aids with Beta Cell Regrowth

Diabetes research provided our final life science breakthrough for 2016. Beta cells store and release insulin within the body, and Joslin Diabetes Center research, aided by mass spectrometry, has revealed that SerpinB1 regenerates beta cells within the body. Furthermore, SerpinB1 is produced by the liver, meaning that this process exists natively within the body. Synthetic SerpinB1 has also proven to stimulate beta cells in laboratory conditions, paving the way for drug discovery and a practical application for patients who are living with diabetes.

Of course, none of these groundbreaking achievements would have been possible without critical thinking and the creative application of mass spectrometry to serve real-world life sciences problems. We applaud the hard-working researchers in each of these cases and hope that they are trusting their mass specs to strong, safe, dedicated lab furniture like ours.

To join the ranks of those doing the same, contact us today.