Mass Spectrometry Reveals Water to Energy Pathway

Plants, algae and some single-celled organisms produce energy through a process called photosynthesis; this chemical process converts sunlight into chemical energy through an electron transport chain. Although scientists have gained a deep understanding of the process, an ancient strain of cyanobacteria with photosynthetic capabilities have offered the first experimental study on how water is turned to energy. Mass spectrometry was used to determine the pathway of water in the process, helping to build on the knowledge of photosynthesis, this knowledge can also be applied to other areas including green fuels research and production. This article will explore the discoveries surrounding photosynthesis and how mass spectrometer instruments were used during the study.

Researchers understood that water was needed during photosynthesis at the ‘active site’ of the Photosystem II protein complex. However, it was hard to measure the exact pathway experimentally. Active sites produce reactive oxygen species which travel in the opposite direction of water, creating a ‘damage trail’ which could be observed using high-resolution mass spectrometry. Using these damage trails, scientists have been able to identify pathways from the active sites all the way to the surface of the organism; they propose these pathways are used to deliver water to the active sites. Professor Pakrasi from the International Center for Energy predicts that a deeper understanding of the enzymes in Photosystem II could help replicate the process in green fuel development, creating an abundant source of sustainable energy.

The damage trials were analysed using mass spectrometers; it was found that they comprised of 36 amino acid residues from three proteins found near the manganese cluster. However, the damage pathways can only be considered a proxy discovery as they show the movement of the highly reactive radicals, not the water molecules. The team credited the high-resolution mass spectrometry instruments for allowing them to accurately identify a large number of damage sites. Studying evolution, it has been proposed that cyanobacteria are the precursor to chloroplasts, the part of the cell where photosynthesis occurs. Understanding more about Photosystem II develops our knowledge of cyanobacteria, which in turn should lead to a greater understanding of photosynthesis in plants and algae.

MS Tech Solutions is based in Manchester and is part of the X-WAME group, offering customers the latest mass spectrometers and mass spec services at affordable prices. With a wide range of mass spectrometry instruments, their high-resolution MS instruments are installed by skilled engineers and make a great addition to your MS lab. Their team prides itself on providing the latest MS service innovation through ongoing improvements to services and technology to maximise instrument performance.

In addition to their range of high-resolution mass spectrometers, MS Tech Solutions also supplies a range of laboratory equipment including custom mass spec benches, noise suppression units and nitrogen generators. MS Tech Solutions also has a range of refurbished mass spec instruments with various upgrade options available.

To speak to a member of the MS Tech Solution team about any of their products or services, call on +44 (0)161 9989 219 or contact us here.

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Mass Spectrometry Investigates Pollution Problem

At the start of the 20th century, the oil boom in Texas had a massive impact the area’s economic growth, as well as having a dramatic influence on the ecology of the area. Often termed the ‘gusher age’, this time period saw Texas, Oklahoma and California overtake Russia as the top petroleum producing location in the world. However, the petroleum brine produces as a byproduct in the oil extraction process was released along the Texan coast. Petroleum brine contains hydrocarbons and dissolved minerals which have a detrimental effect on the areas wildlife and plantation. Despite the ban of the release of petroleum brine in 1993, the pollution is still burdening the ecosystem over 20 years later. Environmentalists have turned to high-resolution mass spectrometry to offer insight into the underlying environmental pollutants in the area.

Nueces Bay, located in Southwestern Texas, was identified as an area still affected by the petroleum discharge, with some species of oyster still incapable of surviving in the polluted waters. Restoration efforts have had difficulty in identifying the source of toxicity in the bay, thus preventing a successful strategy to be determined to rebuild habitat health. Members of the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi team took water samples from multiple locations around the bay to gain an understanding of the chemical compounds within the water. From 15 sample sites spread across two transects situated in the north and south of the bay, the team used a full scan acquisition approach with the latest mass spectrometers to investigate the chemical makeup of samples. With variation seen between the multiple sample sites, the team were able to identify between 1,800 and 4,000 unique chemical compounds in samples. Although oxygen-, carbon- and hydrogen-containing molecules were found evenly between north and south locations, a larger amount of phosphorus-containing compounds were found in samples taken from the northern transect.

Interestingly the large amount of organophosphorus compounds found in the northern area didn’t originate from the petroleum brine, but was in fact due to pesticides used in agricultural areas in the north. However, phosphorus-rich fertilisers and pesticides have been banned in the area for many years, so investigators were confused as to why the compounds were still prevalent in the area. It was found that petroleum brine contained iron, this would combine with the phosphorus ions released in fertiliser runoff and be absorbed by sediment particles. Bacteria in the sediment of the bay, when running out of oxygen in the oxygen-deprived area, would oxidize the iron into soluble ferrous forms to produce energy, this releases the absorbed organophosphorus molecules into the water. These organophosphorus compounds are being analysed using liquid chromatography coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry to help identify the areas containing the largest amounts of the pollutant. Further mass spectrum analysis is planned to help understand the degradation of the organophosphorus molecules, helping to recover the ecosystem of Nueces Bay.

MS Tech Solutions is part of the X-Wame Group and provides the latest mass spectrometry innovation at affordable prices. Based in Manchester, all mass spectrometers are installed by skilled engineers and make a great addition to any MS lab. Their mass spec service team showcase their commitment to ongoing improvements in their service, technology, throughput and return on investment for your high-resolution mass spectrometer.

In addition to their high-resolution MS instruments, MS Tech Solutions also offers a range of laboratory equipment including custom mass spec benches, vacuum pump noise reduction instruments and nitrogen generators. MS Tech Solutions also stocks a variety of refurbished mass spectrometry instruments, with upgrades available if required.

If you would like more information on MS Tech Solutions products and services, call us at +44 (0)161 9989 219 or contact us here.



New Mass Spectrometry Tool To Revolutionise Cancer Diagnosis

In the fight against cancer, it is becoming increasingly important to shorten the diagnosis process, allowing treatment to start earlier. Despite most cancers developing slowly, the healthcare industry is striving to improve diagnostic processes and help shorten patient waiting times. It can also be a stressful period for patients, with many having to wait weeks for scan or test results. However, this could soon change. Scientists at the University of Texas have developed a mass spectrometry ‘pen’ which could reduce the waiting time for results from weeks to seconds.

The pen aims to aid intraoperative diagnosis, allowing surgeons to investigate the tissue profile using a small volume water droplet and high-resolution mass spectrometer. For the test, the pen is placed on the surface of tissue samples, within three seconds the water droplet is transported from the tissue to the mass spectrometer. The mass spec process is able to detect proteins, lipids and metabolites through unique cancerous biomarkers found within the tissue. The development of this diagnostic pen shows innovation in mass spectrometers, and reflects the industry shift towards portable mass spectrometers.

Researchers tested the ability of the MassSpec Pen on both human and mouse tissue, comparing results produced by the tool for both cancerous and healthy tissue samples. Rigorous validation tests used a variety of cancerous cells including those taken from the breast, lung, thyroid and ovary to assess the capabilities of the pen. They found that the pen could correctly distinguish between cancerous cells and non-cancerous cells, such as connective tissue. From this, the surgeons used the pen during surgeries on three mice with breast cancer; the pen was able to guide the surgeons and identify cancerous cells from healthy cells. Understanding the positioning of cancer tissue will help surgeons determine whether cancer is benign or cancerous, affecting future treatment steps.

Developments like the MassSpec Pen could revolutionise the cancer diagnostic process, speeding up diagnostic processes and resulting in better outcome for patients. This mass spectrometry system has been found to have a 96% accuracy rate; it is likely that this technology will soon be used in healthcare programs around the world. Not only does the pen help with diagnostic processes, it can also be used during surgeries and help ensure all cancerous tumours are fully removed. Mass spectrometry is continuing to influence healthcare innovation, helping to identify and correctly treat a range of diseases.  

Mass Spec Technology Solutions Ltd is based in Manchester and offers customers the latest mass spectrometry innovation at affordable prices. Offering a wide range of mass spectrometers, their instruments are installed by skilled engineers and are a great addition to any MS lab. Their Mass Spec service team is committed to the ongoing improvement of services and technology to maximise the performance, throughput and return on investment of your mass spectrometer.

In addition to their range of high-resolution mass spectrometers, Mass Spec also offer a range of laboratory equipment including custom mass spec benches, nitrogen generators and vacuum pump noise reduction units. MSSS also offer a range of refurbished instruments configured to your requirements with various upgrade available if required.

For more information about any of our mass spectrometry instruments or services, contact us here or call on 0161 9989 219.


Keeping Children Safe – Testing Toys

The toy industry has been inundated recently with concerned parents, worried about the safety of the plastic used in their children's favourite toys. Concerns mostly surround toys and games which use plastic that could contain toxic chemicals. It is unclear how traces of toxic chemicals, typically used in a wide range of products as flame retardants, were discovered in a range of children’s toys. We investigate the chemicals traced in plastics from toys and how mass spectrometry is helping to identify these harmful chemicals. 

For many years, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) have been used in products to make them less flammable. The man-made chemicals are used in a variety of plastics, textiles and electronic equipment. They can be separated into three main categories; polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), tetrabromobiphenol A (TBBPA) and decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE). Despite many of these chemicals being banned in Europe, they have still managed to be traced in a range of toys and food containers. This is determined to be due to poor recycling practices, with many BFRs used in circuit boards for electrical equipment.

The standard test to investigate the chemical properties of plastics is to use gas chromatography with mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Studies showed that the majority of flame retardant chemicals found in toys came from recycled materials originally used for computer and laptop casings. Mass spectrum analysis showed toys contained traces of both bromine and antimony, both commonly used in flame retardants. This discovery has caused a call for improvements in recycling processes, with increased efforts to remove the BFR containing plastics from the recycling system.

This example demonstrates the importance of high-resolution mass spectrometry in the testing process, ensuring the products used by our children are non-toxic and safe. With continued investigation into these harmful toxins, it is expected that mass spectrometry instruments will adapt to detect these harmful toxins at lower concentrations. As a result of this discovery, recycling practices have been improved, helping improve the safety of our plastic products. Improvements in toy safety will help put parent’s minds at ease and ensure our children play safely.

Mass Spec Technology Solutions Ltd is a Manchester-based company providing the latest technology and innovation through their range of mass spectrometry instruments. Their team of skilled engineers are committed to providing fast, effective service at an affordable price. With continued investment into mass spectrometers, their mass spec service in unrivalled.

In addition to their range of mass spec products, they also offer a range of other laboratory products including vacuum pump noise reduction units, nitrogen generators and custom MS lab bench. In addition, they also offer a range of mass spectrometer upgrades, a great addition to your MS lab.

For more information on our mass spectrometry services, contact us here or call on 0161 9989 219.

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Know Your Food! – Mass Spectrometry In The Food Industry

With the goal of healthier lifestyles, an increase has been seen in the care the public take when choosing the foods they eat. But before food hits the supermarket shelves, rigorous analytical tests have been carried out to ensure it is safe for us to eat. Mass spectrometry and chromatography techniques are helping in the identification of contaminated foods, preventing disease spreading to the general public. These processes have also allowed nutritional claims made on food labels to be checked, resulting in the highest quality, healthy food sources being sold globally. Food manufacturers rely on high-resolution mass spectrometry and its ability to be accessible, robust, selective and sensitive. Investment into mass spectrometry instruments reduces risk for manufacturers, decreases the amount of food fraud and helps to protect manufacturer’s brands.

As the general public strive for the best food quality, the food industry has struggled to meet demand and continue to provide the best foods, beverages and dietary supplements with the required nutritional content. This demand for high-quality has quickly become the biggest problem currently facing the food industry. Manufacturers not only have to provide consumers with safe and authentic food, but they also have to meet regulation standards, often requiring the assistance of mass spectrum analysis. Analysis is often hard as international food standards vary, making it difficult to create a product that can be sold through international markets.

Mass spectrometry developments have allowed high-resolution analysis through ion mobility separation; this creates an extra dimension of separation for food samples. Ion mobility separation also creates an extra level of confirmation to be carried out during analysis using collision cross section (CCS) values. Understanding this physicochemical property allows a higher level of confidence in identifying contaminants in foods.

Looking to the future, it is expected that consumers will become even more interested in the quality and safety of the food they eat. It is expected that mass spectrometers will become a standard instrument used during food testing processes. Continued investment in mass spectrometry equipment will allow higher degrees of analysis, more accurate food labelling and the ability to investigate both known and unknown compounds in food samples. Most importantly, these technology advancements will result in the best and safest food on our supermarket shelves.

Mass Spec Technology Solutions Ltd based in Manchester provides the latest innovations in mass spectrometry instruments. Their team have years of experience providing a range of laboratory equipment including noise reduction units, nitrogen generators and custom made lab benches. With continuous investment into mass spec technology, they pride themselves on offering the best mass spectrometry services.

In addition, Mass Spec have a range of fully refurbished mass spectrum analysis instruments, all with full warranty and installed to maker’s specification, available at a fraction of the cost. They also provide a range mass spec upgrades making their mass spectrometry instruments a great addition to your MS lab.

If you would like to find out more about our mass spectrometry instruments and services, call us on 0161 9989 219 or contact us here.



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