What Are the Applications of LC-MS?
Feb 11 2022
Short for liquid chromatography mass spectrometry, LC-MS is a popular way of separating and analysing components within a substance. A liquid chromatograph is used to separate components, before a mass spectrometer provides spectral information to identify those components.
The method is usually referred to as LC-MS, even when HPLC or UHPLC is used. For clarity, HPLC uses high pressure for faster and more accurate results compared to LC, which relies on gravity to move the solvent. UHPLC (or UPLC) goes one further with even higher pressures, allowing for lower particle sizes in columns.
In this post, we’ll put all of that into context by looking at five applications of LC-MS.
How is it used?
LC-MS can be used to analyse a wide range of environmental samples – from air and soil to wastewater, sludge and drinking water. Needless to say, it will be used to check for different things in each. These include pesticides and herbicides like chlorophenols and phenoxyalkanoic acids.
Similar to the applications above, LC-MS can be used in the food industry to detect contaminants at trace levels. That includes pesticide residues from crops and animal drugs that get into meat products. It can also check for natural toxins – such as mercury in fish – the levels of which need to be monitored to keep food products safe.
One of the most common applications of LC-MS is in the pharmaceutical industry, where it’s used to check for impurities in drug products. It goes without saying that such impurities could be problematic for anyone taking the drugs. Thankfully, LC-MS is highly sensitive, so it can detect trace impurities to avoid contaminated products being released.
A more specialist use of LC-MS in the pharmaceutical industry comes in the development of antibody-drug conjugates. These potent biological drugs are made when a therapeutic agent is attached to an antibody. The role of LC-MS is discussed in the article ‘Accelerating ADC Development with Mass Spectrometry’.
Not a million miles from its pharmaceutical application, LC-MS can also be used to detect drug use. In these instances, HPLC is paired with mass spectrometry to detect the use of illicit drugs for legal purposes but also things like doping agents in sporting scenarios. The results can be used as evidence for police charges or sporting disqualifications, with HPLC-MS providing accurate and reliable results.
Another industry in which LC-MS lends a hand is cosmetics. Perhaps a bit more surprising than the other applications, LC-MS is used to identify and check for a wide range of possible contaminants as well as preservatives to ensure the quality of cosmetic and personal care products.
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