Optimization of Sample Preparation and Instrumental Parameters for the Rapid Analysis of Drugs of Abuse in Hair samples by MALDI-MS/MS Imaging

Bryn Flinders, Emma Beasley, Ricky M. Verlaan, Eva Cuypers, Simona Francese, Tom Bassindale, Malcolm R. Clench, Ron M. A. Heeren*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) has been employed to rapidly screen longitudinally sectioned drug user hair samples for cocaine and its metabolites using continuous raster imaging. Optimization of the spatial resolution and raster speed were performed on intact cocaine contaminated hair samples. The optimized settings (100 x 150 mu m at 0.24 mm/s) were subsequently used to examine longitudinally sectioned drug user hair samples. The MALDI-MS/MS images showed the distribution of the most abundant cocaine product ion at m/z 182. Using the optimized settings, multiple hair samples obtained from two users were analyzed in approximately 3 h: six times faster than the standard spot-to-spot acquisition method. Quantitation was achieved using longitudinally sectioned control hair samples sprayed with a cocaine dilution series. A multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) experiment was also performed using the 'dynamic pixel' imaging method to screen for cocaine and a range of its metabolites, in order to differentiate between contaminated hairs and drug users. Cocaine, benzoylecgonine, and cocaethylene were detectable, in agreement with analyses carried out using the standard LC-MS/MS method.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2462-2468
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Hair/chemistry
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs/analysis
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization/methods
  • Substance Abuse Detection/methods
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry/methods

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