Many Labs today are faced with the challenge of having to do more with existing personnel and space. When looking at developing or modifying a LC/MS or GC/MS assay, one of the most important steps is the sample prep.
This sets the samples up for success or can cause great struggles depending on how clean the samples are prior to injection. No one wants to do sample prep if they don’t have to, but injecting a messy sample into an expensive LC/MS or GC/MS causes additional problems down the line. Sample prep doesn’t have to be hard if you take the time to understand and evaluate modern techniques which optimize the chemistry and hardware for the purpose of robust analytical testing. This may sound like it will take a lot of time, but by using the resources available through vendors that provide scientific support, you can quickly narrow down the options based on a vast knowledge of things that have worked for others. I always like to say that change is the only constant. Labs can change how they perform sample prep to achieve better results, faster and maintain rugged data.
Over the years, the need to work with smaller volumes has been constant. I realize that this is a relative term, small is different depending on what industry you are in. Small for an environmental lab might be 100mL, whereas small in a bioanalytical lab may be 10µL. Nevertheless, the challenges of working with large volumes of sample include storing the samples, and that space is usually at a premium. Also, in the bioanalytical world, there is a trend towards home sampling, where people can do their own sample acquisition with a kit and send it into the lab for testing. Obviously, mailing large volumes of biofluids is not really an ideal scenario.
The article “Small-volume detection: platform developments for clinically-relevant applications” from the Journal of Nanobiotechnology is a nice summary of applications to consider.
Another emerging need in clinical and bioanalytical labs is to analyze Biomolecules and biomarkers, often limited in supply. As labs look at developing modified workflows to deal with smaller volumes of samples, it is important to consider workflow options designed for use with the applicable volume of sample and reagents.
Small sample volumes, what are the challenges we face?