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To ensure food safety, rapid detection of adulterated and counterfeit food products is critical. One such method, Direct Analysis in Real Time-Mass Spectrometry (DART-MS) (IonSense, Saugus, Mass.), quickly screens and analyzes a wide array of samples for mass spectral information and does not require sample preparation. As an example, several recent studies detail the analysis of cinnamon, mostly using chromatographic methods. High concentrations of coumarin in cinnamon have prompted numerous investigations as well, as its presence is suspected of being harmful. All of these studies require sample derivatization and long analysis times. In the current study, DART-MS was used to analyze cinnamon and detect the presence of coumarin.

DART-MS spectra were acquired under CID conditions to rapidly differentiate among  five synthetic cannabinoids contained within  ’herbal’ products purchased locally in New York State (USA). The spectra exhibited [M+H]+ ions and product ions unique to each cannabinoid that corresponded to major structural features. Five different cannabinoid analogs, alone and as mixtures of at least two cannabinoids, were identified in six herbal products and differentiated by their CID product ion patterns.

The blue lotus flower (Nymphea caerulea) is an Egyptian water lily containing apomorphine and nuciferine. Apomorphine has been described as a psychoactive alkaloid and is a non-selective dopamine agonist primarily used to treat Parkinson’s disease as it stimulates dopamine receptors and improves motor function. Nuciferine is an alkaloid associated with dopamine receptor blockade. Today, blue lotus flower is used as a sleep aid and anxiety reliever. The rebuildable dripping atomizer (RDA) is an electronic cigarette that allows direct application of an e-liquid onto the coil in the atomizer for aerosolization, compared to a typical electronic cigarette where the e-liquid is wicked from a storage vessel to the coil. Our laboratory received a dark-brown resin material from a concerned parent. The resin had been confiscated from an adolescent who had a reported history of marijuana use. The resin was later identified as blue lotus flower (N. caerulea). This resin, together with four commercially available blue lotus products, was analyzed for content. Apomorphine was detected in two samples, and nuciferine was detected in all five samples. The confiscated resin was determined to contain no apomorphine and 4300 ng/g of nuciferine. The nuciferine resin was shown to aerosolize using aRDA electric cigarette.

Using chemical fingerprints for timber species identification is a relatively new, but promising technique. However, little is known about the effect of pre-processing spectral data parameter settings on the timber species classification accuracy. Therefore, this study presents an extensive and automated analysis method using the random forest machine learning algorithm on a set of highly valuable timber species from the Meliaceae family. Metabolome profiles were collected using direct analysis in real-time (DART™) ionisation coupled with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOFMS) analysis of heartwood specimens for 175 individuals (representing 10 species). In order to analyse variability in classification accuracy, 110 sets of data pre-processing parameter combinations consisting of mass tolerance for binning and relative abundance cut-off thresholds were tested. Furthermore, for each set of parameters (designated “binning/threshold setting”), a random search for one hyperparameter of interest was performed, i.e. the number of variables (in this case ions) drawn randomly for each random forest analysis. The best classification accuracy (82.2%) was achieved with 47 variables and a binning and threshold combination of 40 mDa and 4%, respectively. Entandrophragma angolense is mostly confused with Entandrophragma candollei and Khaya anthotheca, and several Swietenia species are confused with each other due to the high similarity of their chemical fingerprints. Entandrophragma cylindricum, Entandrophragma utile, Khaya ivorensis, Lovoa trichilioides and Swietenia macrophylla are easy to discriminate and show less misclassifications. The choice of parameter settings, whether it is in the data pre-processing (binning and threshold) or classification algorithm (hyperparameters), results in variability in classification accuracy. Therefore, a preliminary parameter screening is proposed before constructing the final model when using the random forest algorithm for classification. Overall, DART-TOFMS in combination with random forest is a powerful tool for species identification.

A high throughput method for species identification and classification through chemometric processing of direct analysis in real time (DART) mass spectrometry-derived fingerprint signatures has been developed. The method entails introduction of samples to the open air space between the DART ion source and the mass spectrometer inlet, with the entire observed mass spectral fingerprint subjected to unsupervised hierarchical clustering processing. A range of both polar and non-polar chemotypes are instantaneously detected. The result is identification and species level classification based on the entire DART-MS spectrum. Here, we illustrate how the method can be used to: (1) distinguish between endangered woods regulated by the Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Flora and Fauna (CITES) treaty; (2) assess the origin and by extension the properties of biodiesel feedstocks; (3) determine insect species from analysis of puparial casings; (4) distinguish between psychoactive plants products; and (5) differentiate between Eucalyptus species. An advantage of the hierarchical clustering approach to processing of the DART-MS derived fingerprint is that it shows both similarities and differences between species based on their chemotypes. Furthermore, full knowledge of the identities of the constituents contained within the small molecule profile of analyzed samples is not required.

A new MALDI-TOF/TOF system with monoisotopic precursor selection was applied to the analysis of triacylglycerols in an olive oil sample. Monoisotopic precursor selection made it possible to obtain product-ion mass spectra without interference from species that differed by a single double bond. Complete structure determination of all triacylglycerols, including structural isomers, was made possible by interpreting the charge-remote fragmentation resulting from high-energy collision-induced dissociation (CID) of the sodiated triacylglycerols.

A Japanese lacquer film called "Urushi" is a natural polymer that has been used as a paint and adhesive for living-wares and craft-wares for approximately 8,000 years. "Urushi" has a complex structure that researchers are trying to understand using pyrolysis-gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (Py/GC/MS) system. Recently, we developed a new gas chromatograph/high resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometer (GC/HR-TOFMS) system that can be used for comprehensive two-dimensional GC (GCxGC) measurements. Additionally, we have developed a unique combination electron ionization/photoionization (EI/PI) ion source that can be used with this GC/HR-TOFMS system. In this work, we measured "Urushi" samples using this unique Py/GCxGC/HR-TOFMS system in combination with our new combination EI/PI ion source.

Last Updated: September 2013

Since 1998 the serious public health problem in South East Asia of counterfeit artesunate, containing no or subtherapeutic amounts of the active antimalarial ingredient, has led to deaths from untreated malaria, reduced confidence in this vital drug, large economic losses for the legitimate manufacturers, and concerns that artemisinin resistance might be engendered.

Last Updated: December 2014

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