What role does mass spectrometry (MS) play in cannabis use, single cell analysis, and metabolomics? A session at the 71st AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo in Anaheim, California, will explore MS’ applications as a clinical tool in these three diverse areas of laboratory medicine.

MS is a maturing platform for diagnosis and discovery, Robert Fitzgerald, PhD, DABCC, professor of pathology at the University of California-San Diego and the session’s moderator, told CLN Stat.

This late-breaking session, Marijuana, Multiplexed Imaging, and Activity Metabolomics—Late Breaking Applications of Mass Spectrometry (32224), highlights areas in which MS allows for a better understanding of pathophysiology and expands the definition of “biomarker,” he explained.

Fitzgerald, a presenter at the session, will talk about the indicators of recent cannabis use based on results from a clinical trial that evaluated the effects of marijuana on driving performance. Sean Bendall, BS, PhD, assistant professor of pathology at Stanford University School of Medicine, will discuss how a novel combination of elemental MS and massively multiplexed single-cell analysis provides insights into pathobiology. The last presentation by Gary Siuzdak, BS, PhD, senior director of the Scripps Center for Metabolomics at The Scripps Research Institute, will reveal how activity metabolomics influences other omics and, by extension, the active role of metabolites in disease states.

Identifying a marker that correlates perfectly with impairment is the “holy grail” for analyzing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a key active ingredient of cannabis, according to Fitzgerald. “A lot of work has been done in this area, all of which has concluded that there are no markers that predict impairment,” he explained. The trial he’ll discuss, one of the largest conducted to date, used a randomized placebo controlled approach to evaluate the effects of smoking marijuana on driving performance. “It is one of the first to test ‘modern marijuana’ that has THC potency greater that 13% and is the first to involve drug recognition experts. Combining quantitative analysis of THC and metabolites with driving performance indicators will expand our knowledge of the impairing effects of marijuana on traffic safety,” he summarized.

Liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) has been crucial to identifying markers of recent cannabis use. “Triple quadrupole MS is a mature technology that’s been widely used in clinical laboratories for small molecule quantification,” said Fitzgerald. “11-Nor-9-carboxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC-COOH, the primary biomarker used to identify use of marijuana is being expanded by using isotope dilution LC-MS/MS to quantify a variety of THC metabolites.”

Such techniques are widely used in clinical toxicology laboratories. “We are expanding on analytes being measured and understanding their relationship with impairment and recent use,” he added.

Bendall’s presentation will demonstrate the process of simultaneously quantifying pathological features in blood and tissue, something that’s currently assessed on a qualitative, individual basis, Fitzgerald continued.

The MS-based workflows he’ll present “will not only recapitulate conventional clinical observations but also offer a better resolution and sensitivity to detect and classify cellular abnormalities,” Fitzgerald said. Bendall will offer a parallel analysis with clinical workflows on the same samples (conventional versus MS-based).

Siuzdak will demonstrate how metabolomics has been redefined from a simple biomarker identification tool to a technology for the discovery of active drivers of biological processes. “He will introduce the concept of activity metabolomics to describe how various omics technologies can be employed to identify bioactive metabolites that could be targets of drug therapy,” Fitzgerald said. Such techniques have not yet been used in clinical practice. However, Siuzdak has been identifying active metabolites that can be targets of drug therapy.

Register now for the 71st AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo August 4–8 in Anaheim, California, to catch this session on the latest MS applications and more. Marijuana, Multiplexed Imaging, and Activity Metabolomics—Late Breaking Applications of Mass Spectrometry takes place on August 5 and is worth two ACCENT credit hours.