Mass Spectrometry: Ending the Baseball Steroid Era?

?????????????????????????????????????????????Spring is in full swing and the crack of the bat can be heard in baseball fields around the country. As the country’s attention once again turns to the “boys of summer,” we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the continued growth in the number and types of uses being found for the faithful—and increasingly sophisticated—mass spectrometry machines. You see, catching cheating players at their underground steroid game can go a long way toward bringing back confidence in America’s favorite pastime. It can also prove, once again, that the mass spectrometer is a jack-of-all-trades, with unlimited potential in improving the quality of our lives.

Stopping the Steroid Game

As any baseball fan knows, keeping steroids out of the game has become a major issue for Major League Baseball. It sometimes seems that the possibly offending baseball players are always one step ahead of the drug testing protocols. However, the latest improvements in anabolic steroid testing may even out the race and potentially put an end to the “Steroid Era.” Researchers at both Purdue University and Beijing’s Tsinghua University are using tandem mass specs for reactive desorption electrospray ionization.

The breakthrough is occurring on multiple levels: speed, diversity and sample size. This new protocol can test one sample per second, allowing research labs to keep pace with any testing procedure. That one-second test can also identify a full seven different types of steroids, widening the “strike zone” for catching cheating players. And finally, only a single drop of urine is needed to perform these tests.

Mass Spectrometry Advances That Are Under the Radar

Of course, catching dishonest superstar athletes will make headlines. But there are other excellent mass spectrometry uses being developed and refined as well. Here are a couple more impressive things biology researchers are doing with mass specs these days:

– HIV Research: With mass spectrometry, increasingly larger molecules are being completely analyzed today, including proteins, carbohydrates and nucleic acids. Recently, virologists were able to use mass spectrometry to increase their understanding of how the human immunodeficiency virus goes about assembling itself once it has invaded a host cell. We expect that this understanding will be an important step in determining how to prevent the virus from taking over cells in the future.

– Monitoring Anesthesiology: One of the many bodily functions that must be monitored during surgery is the respiratory quotient. Calculating the volume of carbon dioxide produced, divided by the volume of oxygen consumed, allows anesthesiologists to determine whether patients are getting sufficient oxygen—and eliminating enough carbon dioxide—during surgical procedures. Mass spectrometers can measure the metabolic gas exchange taking place in patients undergoing surgery, allowing oxygen flow to be adjusted with confidence.

Dedicated Lab Furniture for a Better Workplace

These are just a handful of the exciting developments happening in mass spectrometry. We’d love to highlight what your lab is doing, if you want to let us know. Meanwhile, keep your mass specs working smoothly and your lab conversations at a reasonable volume by investing in our dedicated lab furniture, which muffles MS vacuum pump sounds by a full 75 percent. That way, in addition to enhancing your lab’s safety and efficiency, you won’t have any trouble listening to this summer’s baseball games if your workload keeps you in the lab for a few extra hours.