A new joint study has shown that using a simple chemical reaction might help detect important molecules in blood and urine.
The technique is effective as it increases the visibility of markers for some genetically caused metabolic disorders up to 100 times when detected through nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy equipment.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Daniel Raftery and Bryan Hainline at Purdue University and Indiana University School of Medicine.
As part of the study, researchers used a method of analysis, called metabolomics, which involves the simultaneous analysis of multiple small molecules, or metabolites, which occur in fluids and tissues in the body.
The presence of a particular metabolite, grouping of metabolites or ratio of metabolites can indicate a response to biological stress or a specific disease state.
"The metabolic profile in biofluids, such as blood and urine, provides a snapshot of ongoing biological processes in the human body," Raftery said.
The researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a cousin of magnetic resonance imaging to detect hydrogen or carbon atoms to provide insight into the metabolites present and the visibility of certain type of metabolites, amino acids, by chemically tagging the molecules of interest so that they were more easily visible.
"We added a chemical that reacts with the amino acids and similar metabolites and forms a tag that can be seen through nuclear magnetic resonance. The tag actually is an easily identifiable isotope, in this case a carbon atom that is heavier than the standard carbon atom. Because we can easily detect this isotope, it causes these tagged metabolites to effectively pop out against the background of all of the others," Raftery said.
The findings of the study were published in the July issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.