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Purdue chemical-analysis method promises fast results

Researchers at Purdue University have shown how a new ultra-fast chemical-analysis tool has numerous promising uses for detecting everything from cancer in the liver to explosives residues on luggage and "biomarkers" in urine that provide an early warning for diseases.

The analytical chemists have most recently demonstrated how the technology, called desorption electrospray ionization, or DESI, rapidly detects the boundaries of cancerous tumors, information that could help ensure that surgeons remove the entire tumor.

"I wouldn't be surprised if pathologists are using this in operating rooms within two years," said R. Graham Cooks, the Henry Bohn Hass Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry in Purdue's College of Science.

The technology has made it possible to speed up and simplify the use of a mass spectrometer, an analytical device that in its conventional form has been long established in modern laboratories. But while ordinary mass spectrometry is both time- and labor-intensive, the Purdue group has modified the technology to make it faster, more versatile and more portable.

"The theme in our lab is 'Don't mess with chemicals,' meaning we don't undertake the usual chemical separations and manipulations needed for conventional mass spectrometry," said Cooks, who has developed a wandlike probe that can quickly gather chemical information from samples in the environment.

A review paper about DESI and related techniques, which enable the direct chemical analysis of objects in an ordinary environment, will appear in the Friday (March 17) issue of the journal Science. The paper was written by Cooks, associate research scientist Zheng Ouyang, visiting scholar Zoltn Takts and doctoral student Justin Wiseman, all in Purdue's Department of Chemistry. Several technical papers have been published about DESI experiments since the method was announced by the same laboratory in Science less than two years ago, but the new Science
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Contact: Emil Venere
venere@purdue.edu
765-494-4709
Purdue University
16-Mar-2006


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