RECETOX Seminar: Elliot James Price (RECETOX, CZ)

“Non-target” (MS) chemical analysis: misconceptions & misinterpretations

“Non-target” mass spectrometry (MS) is hailed to enable unbiased chemical measurement without a priori knowledge. Supposedly, non-target approaches provide holistic coverage of chemical diversity within a sample and facilitate the simultaneous quantification of known ‘target’ compounds, detection of putatively characterised ‘suspect’ markers and elucidation of unknown features. Heralded as high-throughput, “non-target” methodologies are perceived to comprise a rapid sample preparation (and optional chromatographic separation), followed by full-scan data acquisition.

Successful applications of “non-target” MS for routine metabolomic profiling are oft highlighted as incentive to implement an analogous approach for environmental analysis and human biomonitoring. However, numerous misconceptions surround the potential that “non-target” analysis offers these fields. These fallacies stem from: a) obscure and ambiguous semantics, b) misinterpretation of the success “non-target” analysis has achieved in the metabolomics field and c) overlooking fundamental differences (& similarities) between metabolite profiling and monitoring applications.

The aforementioned problems will be discussed with regards to the current notion within the framework of the EU Human Biomonitoring for Europe (HBM4EU) initiative and implications for proposed exposome research to be conducted at RECETOX.

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