The state-of-the-art in two new ambient ionization methods for mass spectrometry, desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) and paper spray (PS), is described and their utility is illustrated with new studies on tissue imaging and biofluid analysis. DESI is an ambient ionization method that can be performed on untreated histological sections of biological tissue in the open lab environment to image lipids, fatty acids, hormones and other compounds. Paper spray is performed in the open lab too; it involves electrospraying dry blood spots or biofluid deposits from a porous medium. PS is characterized by extreme simplicity and speed: a spot of whole blood or other biofluid is analyzed directly from paper, simply by applying a high voltage to the moist paper.
Both methods are being developed for use in diagnostics as a means to inform therapy. DESI imaging is applied to create molecular maps of tissue sections without prior labeling or other sample preparation. Like other methods of mass spectrometry imaging (MSI), it combines the chemical speciation of multiple analytes with information on spatial distributions. DESI imaging provides valuable information which correlates with the disease state of tissue as determined by standard histochemical methods. Positive-ion data are presented which complement previously reported negative-ion data on paired human bladder cancerous and adjacent normal tissue sections from 20 patients. These data add to the evidence already in the literature demonstrating that differences in the distributions of particular lipids contain disease-diagnostic information. Multivariate statistical analysis using principal component analysis (PCA) is used to analyze the imaging MS data, and so confirm differences between the lipid profiles of diseased and healthy tissue types. As more such data is acquired, DESI imaging has the potential to be a diagnostic tool for future cancer detection in situ; this suggests a potential role in guiding therapy in parallel with standard histochemical and immunohistological methods.
The PS methodology is aimed at high-throughput clinical measurement of quantitative levels of particular therapeutic agents in blood and other biofluids. The experiment allows individual drugs to be quantified at therapeutic levels and data is presented showing quantitative drug analysis from mixtures of therapeutic drugs in whole blood. Data on cholesterol sulfate, a new possible prostate biomarker seen at elevated levels in diseased prostate tissue, but not in healthy prostate tissue in serum are reported using paper spray ionization.