How iMALDI can improve clinical diagnostics
Protein mass spectrometry (MS) is an indispensable tool to detect molecular signatures that can be associated with cellular dysregulation and disease. Despite its huge success in the life sciences, where it has led to novel insights into disease mechanisms and the identification of potential protein biomarkers, protein MS is rarely used for clinical protein assays. While conventional matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) MS is not compatible with complex samples, liquid chromatography-MS (LC-MS)-based assays may be too complex and may lack the robustness and ease of automation required for routine use in the clinic. Therefore, clinical protein assays are dominated by immunohistochemistry and immunoassays which, however, often lack standardization and fully depend on antibody specificity. Immuno-MALDI (iMALDI) MS may overcome these hurdles by utilizing anti-peptide antibodies for the specific enrichment of targeted analytes and on-target detection of the captured analytes, thus combining the unique properties of MS for the unambiguous detection and quantitation of analytes with a workflow that can be fully automated. Here we discuss the requirements for clinical protein assays, the pitfalls of existing methods, how iMALDI has been successfully used to quantify endogenous peptides and proteins from clinical samples, as well as its potential as a powerful tool for companion diagnostics in the light of precision medicine.