Analysis of human gliomas by swab touch spray-mass spectrometry: Applications to intraoperative assessment of surgical margins and presence of oncometabolites

Valentina Pirro, Raquel Sero Llor, Alan K. Jarmusch, Clint M. Alfaro, Aaron A. Cohen-Gadol, Eyas M. Hattab, R. Graham Cooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


Touch spray mass spectrometry using medical swabs is an ambient ionization technique (ionization of unprocessed sample in the open air) that has potential intraoperative application in quickly identifying the disease state of tissue and in better characterizing the resection margin. To explore this potential, we studied 29 human brain tumor specimens and obtained evidence that this technique can provide diagnostic molecular information that is relevant to brain cancer. Touch spray using medical swabs involves the physical sampling of tissue using a medical swab on a spatial scale of a few mm2 with subsequent ionization occurring directly from the swab tip upon addition of solvent and application of a high voltage. Using a tertiary mixture of acetonitrile, N,N-dimethylformamide, and ethanol, membrane-derived phospholipids and oncometabolites are extracted from the tissue, incorporated into the sprayed microdroplets, vacuumed into the mass spectrometer, and characterized in the resulting mass spectra. The tumor cell load was assessed from the complex phospholipid pattern in the mass spectra and also separately by measurement of N-acetylaspartate. Mutation status of the isocitrate dehydrogenase gene was determined via detection of the oncometabolite 2-hydroxyglutarate. The lack of sample pretreatment makes touch spray mass spectrometry using medical swabs a feasible intraoperative strategy for rapid surgical assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4058-4066
Number of pages9
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 7 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry

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