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The establishment of EVISA is funded by the EU through the Fifth Framework Programme (G7RT- CT- 2002- 05112).

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Chemical speciation analysis for the life sciences


Elements of the human body

Figure: Elements of the Human Body

As in other areas, chemical analysis is acting as an information science, providing the data to answer certain questions, such as:
  • Data on the metabolism, i.e. intake, absorption, exchange and excretion of nutrients, minerals and toxicants by biological organisms.
  • Data on the chemistry, bio-chemistry and physiology of exchanged compounds.
  • Data on the bioavailability, bioaccumulation and toxicity of chemicals for plants, animals and humans.

NB!: Such characteristics depends primarily on chemical species not on their elemental composition !

Therefore, with respect to trace elements, trace element analysis does not provide the required information for a deep understanding of biological processes and because of such limitations, its application is often not sufficient in modern research. Despite such lack, trace element analysis is firmly established in routine analysis and therefore widely applied.

The role of trace elements in life science is still sometimes discussed from the elemental  point of view (atomistic) while it is clear that biological  mechanisms are based on molecular aspects.

In this sence some topics often discussed in conferences, monographies and other publications are at least with respect to titles not really supported by meaningful science but mainly by traditions resulting from the history of scientific development.

Such topics with limited scientific background are:
  • Trace metals in human health and nutrition
  • Trace element determination
  • Toxicity of elements
  • Intake recomendations for elements

Especially the role of metals in biological systems can only be studied, when the metals involved are analysed in the form their are present. Such is the main aim of speciation analysis, which therefore plays a fundamental role in the area of metallomics, an integrated research field related to biometals and in symbiosis with genomics and proteomics. Trace element species most often discussed by scientists in this areas are enzymes (Zn), vitamins (Co), metallo-proteins (Se, Fe, Cu, Zn), metallo-drugs (Pt), toxins (As, Hg, Cr(VI), Cd, Pb) and their metabolic forms.

Elemental detection provided by atomic and elemental mass spectrometry can therefore only play the role of a special filter, enhancing the separation of the target elemental species from the overwhelming number of species present in such complex systems. However, trace element detection can only be a part of a multitechnique approach that more and more often has to include high resolution molecular mass spectrometry and other techniques in order to gain insight in the area of metallomics.

Related reviews related to chemical speciation analysis for life science

Kateryna Kostenkova, Gonzalo Scalese1, Dinorah Gambino, Debbie C. Crans, Highlighting the roles of transition metals and speciation in chemical biology, Curr. Opin. Chem. Biol., 69 (2022) 102155. DOI: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2022.102155

Maryam Doroudian, Jürgen Gailer, Integrative Metallomics Studies of Toxic Metal(loid) Substances at the Blood Plasma–Red Blood Cell–Organ/Tumor Nexus, Inorganics, 10 (2022) 200. DOI: 10.3390/inorganics10110200

Marco Aurélio Zezzi Arruda, Jemmyson Romário de Jesus, Claudia Andrea Blindauer, Alan James Stewart, Speciomics as a concept involving chemical speciation and omics, Journal of Proteomics, 263 (2022) 104615. DOI: 10.1016/j.jprot.2022.104615
H. Haraguchi, Metallomics: the history over the last decade and a future outlook, Metallomics, 9/8 (2017) 1001-1013. DOI: 10.1039/c7mt00023e

C.G. Vogiatzis, G.A. Zachariadis, Tandem mass spectrometry in metallomics and the involving role of ICP-MS detection: A review, Anal. Chim. Acta, 819 (2014) 1–14. doi: 10.1016/j.aca.2014.01.029

Dirk Wesenberg, Gerd-Joachim Krauss, Dirk Schaumlöffel, Metallo-thiolomics: Investigation of thiol peptide regulated metal homeostasis in plants and fungi by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, Int. J. Mass Spectrom., 307 (2011) 46–54. doi: 10.1016/j.ijms.2010.10.026

Sandra Mounicou, Joanna Szpunar, Ryszard Lobinski, Inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry in proteomics, metabolomics and metallomics studies, Eur. J. Mass Spectrom., 16/3 (2010) 243–253. doi: 10.1255/ejms.1059

Yasumitsu Ogra, Toxicometallomics for Research on the Toxicology of Exotic Metalloids Based on Speciation Studies, Anal. Sci., 25 (2009) 1189-1195. doi: 10.2116/analsci.25.1189

A.R. Timerbaev, Capillary electrophoresis coupled to mass spectrometry for biospeciation analysis: critical evaluation, Trends Anal. Chem., 28/4 (2009) 416-425. doi: 10.1016/j.trac.2009.02.001

Richard W. Strange, Martin C. Feiters, Biological X-ray absorption spectroscopy (BioXAS): a valuable tool for the study of trace elements in the life sciences, Curr. Opin. Structural Biol.,  18 (2008) 609–616. DOI: 10.1016/j.sbi.2008.06.002

P. Apostoli, R. Cornelis, J. Duffus, P. Hoet, D. Lison, Environmental Health Criteria 234

Related EVISA Resources

Brief summary: Tools for elemental speciation
Brief summary: ICP-MS - A versatile detection system for speciation analysis
Brief summary: LC-ICP-MS - The most often used hyphenated system for speciation analysis
Brief summary: GC-ICP-MS
Brief summary: CE-ICP-MS for speciation analysis
Brief summary: ESI-MS: The tool for the identification of species
Brief summary: Speciation Analysis - Striving for Quality
Brief summary: Atomic Fluorescence Spectrometry as a Detection System for Speciation Analysis

Brief summary: Speciation analysis for the study of metallodrugs and their biomolecular interactions
Brief summary: Speciation analysis for cancer diagnosis

Material Database: Materials for speciation analysis
Material Database: Materials for Arsenic speciation analysis
Material Database: Materials for Mercury speciation analysis
Material Database: Materials for Selenium speciation analysis
Material Database: Materials for Tin speciation analysis

Related EVISA News

February 20, 2019: The retention of gadolinium in the human body following the use of gadolinium-based MRI contrast agents: a call to action for analytical chemists
July 31, 2018: FDA Invites Comment on New Exposure Limits for Cadmium
December 29, 2013: A new study finds: Inorganic mercury stays in the brain for years if not decades
September 14, 2013: Toxic Methylmercury-Producing Microbes More Widespread Than Realized
September 12, 2013: Scientists reveal how organic mercury can interfere with vision
August 6, 2013: Bacterial methylation of mercury not only starting from oxidized mercury
July 15, 2013: New arsenic compounds found in herring
March 23, 2013: Tributyltin exposure promotes obesity in following mice generations
March 22, 2013: Mercury isotope fractionation provides new tool to trace the source of human exposure
February 8, 2013: ORNL scientists solve mystery about mercury methylation
October 29, 2012: Identification and quantification of potential metabolites of Gd-based contrast agents
June 19, 2012: Vaccine ingredient causes brain damage; some nutrients prevent it
June 17, 2012: Factors Affecting Methylmercury Accumulation in the Food Chain
February 15, 2012: Cadmium Exposure Could Be Damaging Children’s Health more than Lead
February 11, 2012: Study links high levels of cadmium and lead in blood to pregnancy delay
August 15, 2011: New insights about interaction of thimerosal with blood components
August 9, 2011: New selenium metabolites found in human serum
May 26, 2011: Oral ingestion of hexavalent chromium through drinking water and cancer mortality
May 22, 2011: Does Selenium Prevent Cancer? It May Depend on Which Form People Take
May 12, 2011: Review: Selenium doesn't prevent cancer
December 4, 2010: Arsenic, an element of archaic life ?
November 24, 2010: Deemed Essential to Health for Decades, Chromium Has No Nutritional Effect, UA Researchers Show
August 2, 2010: Gut bacteria transform inorganic arsenate leading to more toxic arsenic species
July 22, 2010: ICP-MS Analysis Suggests Metal-Binding Proteins Significantly More Abundant Than Thought
June 19, 2010: A new Selenium-containing compound, Selenoneine, found as the predominant Se-species in the blood of Bluefin Tuna
May 17, 2010: Uptake of arsenic through human skin depends strongly on its speciation
February 23, 2010: Accumulation or production of arsenobetaine in humans?
January 8, 2010: The human liver: not always doing the job right?
September 8, 2009: Inorganic Mercury Level in US Women increases
July 20, 2009: Researchers Reveal Selenium's Metabolism In Life-Giving Amino Acids
July 15, 2009: New Study Finds: Thimerosal Induces Autism-like Neurotoxicity
June 25, 2009: New mass spectrometric method allows fast and comprehensive analyses of metabolites
May 4, 2009: Gadolinium speciation analysis in search for the cause of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF)
December 14, 2008: New study investigates the interaction of thimerosal with proteins
November 12, 2008: Mechanism of immuno toxicity of dibutyltin clarified
September 5, 2008: Exposure to inorganic arsenic may increase diabetes risk
August 16, 2008: Arsenic-eating bacteria rewrite evolutionary history
August 8, 2008: Arsenolipids in fish oil found by arsenic speciation analysis
July 10, 2008: Methyl mercury metabolism in man influenced by genetic factors
March 16, 2008: New selenium-containing proteins identified in selenium-rich yeast
August 19, 2007: Speciation and Toxicity: Humic Acids Increase Lead Bioavailability and Toxicity for Marine Invertebrates
May 23, 2007: Trivalent Chromium supplemention no help in controlling diabetes
April 24, 2007: Nutrigenomics: The role of chromium for fat metabolism revisited
April 9, 2007: Trimethylselenonium is not the major metabolite for human cancer patients excreting high doses of selenium
March 27, 2007: Manganese (II) species play a major role for repairing DNA damage by ionizing radiation
January 17, 2007: Human metabolism of arsenic is altered by fasting

last time modified: December 13, 2023


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