Thread-based isoelectric focusing coupled with desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry†
The combination of a thread-based electrofluidic analytical device and desorption electrospray ionization mass-spectrometry (DESI-MS) was investigated for the separation and concentration of proteins. The combination delivered a low-cost novel approach for sample pretreatment and target focusing, with direct “on-thread” ambient mass spectrometry detection. For this purpose, a platform for thread-based isoelectric focusing (TB-IEF) was 3D-printed, optimised, and applied to the separation and focusing of three model proteins. Successful separation and focusing was achieved within 30 min. The TB-IEF device was coupled with DESI-MS by direct exposure of the focused solutes on the dried thread to the DESI source. As a proof-of-concept, a 10-fold increase in the DESI-MS response for insulin was achieved following the TB-IEF preconcentration, whilst simultaneously isolating the target solutes from their sample matrix.