Main content area

Hair Analysis: Contamination versus Incorporation from the Circulatory System—Investigations on Single Hair Samples Using Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry and Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Mass Spectrometry

Erne, Robert, Bernard, Laetitia, Steuer, Andrea E., Baumgartner, Markus R., Kraemer, Thomas
Analytical chemistry 2019 v.91 no.6 pp. 4132-4139
blood flow, decontamination, desorption, drugs, hairs, mass spectrometry, washing
Contamination is a highly controversial issue in hair analysis. Therefore, hair testing protocols typically include wash steps to remove contamination. However, recent studies claim that washing could also lead to permanent incorporation of contaminants into hair, thus questioning the validity of hair testing at all. In the present study, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) with longitudinal sectioning of single hairs and different decontamination protocols was used to reveal differences between the incorporation of a substance into hair from external sources and an incorporation via bloodstream. Single hairs were longitudinally sectioned using a custom-made sample holder. Data were acquired with MALDI-MS by rastering each hair individually. Single hair samples from drug users, blank hairs, and zolpidem- and zolpidem-D6-soaked hairs were investigated. Different published washing protocols were tested, and an in-house washing protocol was developed. For images with higher spatial resolution, time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) was used. Longitudinal sectioning of hairs dramatically increased sensitivity; even single-dose administrations of zolpidem in single hairs could thus be detected using MALDI-MS. Zolpidem from external sources could be detected in large quantities in superficial hair structures. Zolpidem from consumer hairs, proposed to be strongly bound to inner hair structures, could not be completely removed even by the strongest tested decontamination protocol, whereas zolpidem-soaked hairs could be cleared almost completely with the developed in-house wash protocol. The applied methods allowed a first insight into the connection of decontamination protocols and wash-in phenomena in hair analysis. Further studies with other drugs are necessary to assess the general validity of these findings.