A new non-destructive method for the detection of alkaloids in plant tissue has been developed by a team of US researchers.
A new non-destructive method for the detection of alkaloids in plant tissue has been developed by a team of US researchers. Graham Cooks and colleagues from Purdue University, Indiana, used the new method to detect atropine and coniine, the main poisonous compounds in hemlock.
Alkaloid compounds are common in plants and are often known to have useful medicinal purposes. Cooks and his team used mass spectrometry to analyse these alkaloid compounds in plant material without any sample preparation. Their innovation was to produce the positive ions by desorption electrospray ionization (DESI). They sprayed tiny charged droplets of solvent onto an unprepared sample, leaving it more or less intact. DESI works at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, unlike other techniques that require high vacuum or heating.
The technique was demonstrated with poison hemlock and deadly nightshade, but it could be applied to other alkaloids like those known to have useful medicinal properties in drug discovery and development.
Colin R Batchelor
N Talaty, Z Takáts and R G Cooks, Analyst, 2005, (DOI: 10.1039/<MAN>b511161g</MAN>)