IT-TOF Mass Spectrometry

The mass spectrometry (MS) market is continuing to develop at a rapid pace as vendors try to improve the performance and capabilities of MS systems. In their zeal to find the newest and best performing design, as well as to negotiate the increasingly dense field of technological patents, these vendors are exploring many possible tandem configurations. One of the most recent subcategories to arise out of these efforts is quadrupole ion trap time-of-flight MS (QIT-TOF or IT-TOF).

IT-TOF is essentially a variant of quadrupole TOF. It was developed to meet the needs of scientists who require MS capability, but also need the precursor ion selection and the high-resolution capabilities that traditional Q-TOF systems provide. IT-TOF is able to provide powerful structural analysis of compounds in complex matrices and perform highly accurate mass measurement; thus, it can identify a vast array of unknown compounds. It is also capable of relatively high throughput rates. IT-TOF has been developed commercially as both a tandem MALDI-TOF instrument and, more recently, as a system designed specifically for tandem LC/MS.

One of the first viable commercial IT-TOFs was the Radiance Pro, introduced by Syagen Technology in 2001. This system was intended for the military and security market, as opposed to life science: Syagen had little intention of competing directly with the major MS vendors. Introduced in 2002 by Shimadzu’s Kratos division, the AXIMA-QIT, which is configured as a tandem MALDI-TOF system, was the first IT-TOF system to have a major impact on the MS market. In 2005, Shimadzu introduced one of the first commercial LC-IT-TOF systems. Almost simultaneously, Hitachi introduced an LC-IT-TOF system. Hitachi put a twist on its system by utilizing a linear ion trap as the first mass analyzer, which can be operated either as an ion trap or as a conventional quadrupole. Also in 2005, Syagen introduced a security portal inspection system, the Guardian, which is based on the same IT-TOF MS technology found in the Radiance Pro.

The inherent strengths of IT-TOF make it useful for a wide range of proteomics applications, such as biomarker discovery, metabolite ID and de novo structural analysis. Its high specificity creates significant potential for use in the clinical market. Other less conventional but rapidly growing areas of application are forensics and security.

In 2006, the total IT-TOF MS market, including MALDI, LC and non-laboratory security systems, was worth more than $30 million. The laboratory life science sector of the market should see strong double-digit growth as Shimadzu’s LC-IT-TOF gains more widespread acceptance and as Hitachi establishes much-needed marketing and distribution channels for its system. Likewise, the security market is expected to see similarly strong growth, as Syagen’s Guardian portal has been a success.

< | >