Automated system for extraction and instantaneous analysis of millimeter-sized samples†
Adequate sample treatment is critical when employing mass spectrometry (MS) in the analyses of complex biological matrices. Despite various improvements, it is generally difficult to automate the process of preparing solid biological samples for MS analysis. Here we demonstrate a facile approach for automation of the whole analysis (from an untreated sample to the final result). The proposed platform enables disruption and extraction of relatively small samples (individual fruit flies, fragments of tea leaves, powdered drug sampled with a cotton bud), and almost simultaneous analysis of the obtained extract within less than 10 min, and with very little intervention of the analyst. The operation is straightforward: once a sample is placed in the sample chamber, the analyst only needs to press a button on the touch screen of the user interface. The programmed open-source electronic device triggers addition of a small amount of solvent, and subsequent mechanical disruption/extraction of the specimen under controlled conditions (thermostated chamber). A small volume of the extract is directed to the ion source of the mass spectrometer incorporating a Venturi pump. During the operation of the instrument, fluorescence intensities (excitation wavelength windows: 320–380 and 460–500 nm) as well as MS extracted ion currents are recorded simultaneously. In the case of fruit fly samples, ∼70 signals were recorded in both modes while the analysis of green tea leaves yielded ∼30 signals. The resulting data reveal time-resolved extraction profiles characterizing every sample.