From carnivorous plants to cancer research: An exciting day of TD–GC training at Kew Gardens
Thursday, 25 October 2018 at 4:03:PM
On 4 October, we did what is proving to be an increasingly popular format: a one-day seminar with a mixture of product-focused and application-focused content. This one was held at Kew Gardens in London, UK, renowned worldwide as a centre of excellence for plant research and education.
Choosing the best sample preparation technique for GC
The first speaker was Diane Turner, Founding Director of Anthias Consulting,
a UK-based company providing training and technical support to analytical labs
all across the UK. Diane’s presentation focused on the diversity of sample preparation
techniques that are now available for GC, and a key message was that there is
no single ‘recipe’ for sample prep. Rather, the best choice depends on a range
of factors including the matrix, analytes, and most importantly the
physicochemical principles of each technique. As such, the presentation was
excellent foundation for the applications that were to follow.
Solid, liquid or gas? A new sample prep platform
One of Markes’ Application Specialists, Rachael Szafnauer,
was up next, examining the techniques that are available with Centri, our new
platform for sample concentration and automation. She highlighted how the
system successfully marries thermal desorption with sample-prep robotics,
enabling exciting options such as automated high-capacity sorptive extraction,
trap-based refocusing of SPME and headspace samples, and sample re-collection for
all analytical modes.
‘one-shot’ limitation for sampling rare plant volatiles
Although many people quite rightly associate thermal
desorption with environmental monitoring, the scientific literature is packed
with examples of unusual and interesting applications of the technique. One
such application was provided by Dr Jeffrey Kite, who is the head of the
biochemistry lab at Kew, and where he uses a variety of analytical techniques
to study plants and seeds.
Jeffrey’s talk described how TD can be used to capture the
unique VOC profiles of exotic plants, and in particular the Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanus), a rare plant
from South-East Asia with the smell of a rotten carcass! Since the 1980s, Kew’s
specimen of this plant has flowered only three times, which meant that
opportunity to sample its aroma is very limited. As Jeffrey put it: “Either you
take your life in your hands, or you use re-collection!”… referring of course
to the ability of our instruments to send the split portion of a run to a clean
TD tube, for later re-analysis.
to aid non-invasive cancer diagnosis
Next, Dr Sung Tong Chin from Imperial College London talked
about how TD can help in the development of non-invasive ways of diagnosing
cancer. Specifically, he described the headspace sampling of urine from
oesophago-gastric cancer patients and controls, using our HiSorb sorptive
extraction probes, followed by TD–GC–MS.
Encouragingly, Sung Tong said that results of a pilot study
showed a 90% diagnostic accuracy in discriminating patients from healthy
controls, and have the potential to assist in the diagnosis of a cancer with
one of the worst mortality rates in the UK. The Imperial College team was one
of the first research groups to include HiSorb within their analytical
workflow, and of course Centri now offers HiSorb analysis in completely
What applications can
Centri be used for?
Finally, on the subject of Centri, I gave a quick
presentation at the end of the day that summarised the capabilities of the
Centri platform. From air pollution to breath analysis, and water odorants to
food packaging, Centri is proving to be a highly versatile platform, so the
only challenge was fitting everything into the time slot!
To learn more about Centri, take a look at our product brochure.
A great learning
All in all, the Kew Gardens seminar was undoubtedly a
success, and with the event being fully booked less than one hour after the
announcement of the programme, we even had to repeat the presentations on 5
October! The audience included students, scientists and lab managers from
academia and industry, with a diversity of application interests.
Naturally, we’re extremely grateful to all the presenters
and attendees for their enthusiastic participation, and are now looking forward
to doing something similar in other locations.
Andrea Romano received his Ph.D. in Food Biotechnology from the University of Milan in 2008, and has several years’ experience of using GC–MS to analyse food, beverages and exhaled breath. He is now Market Development Specialist at Markes International, where he supports researchers and companies working on trace-level compound detection