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Detecting Anabolic Androgenic Steroids in Horse Biological Fluids

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., the world leader in serving science, announces the success of its liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) solution at the Kenneth L. Maddy Analytical Chemistry Laboratory. The Thermo Scientific Aria TLX-2 turbulent flow chromatography system coupled with the Thermo Scientific TSQ Vantage triple stage quadrupole mass spectrometer was selected to perform precise and sensitive detection of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) in urine and plasma samples from performance horses. Based in Davis, California, the state-of-the-art laboratory is the authorized equine drug-testing laboratory for California's six permanent race courses, nine seasonal fair venues and other performance events.

One of the major challenges when determining AAS in biological fluids is sample preparation. Endogenous phospholipids, present in extremely high levels in biological samples, are a major component of matrix interference. These interferences affect analyte ionization, reducing the precision and reproducibility of subsequent quantitative MS analysis (ion suppression). Equine testing laboratories have traditionally used immunoassay screening followed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) confirmation to minimize interferences. However, these methods lack sensitivity, require lengthy sample preparation and do not remove all matrix interferences.

The Kenneth L. Maddy Analytical Chemistry Laboratory required a means of analysis with high accuracy and simple sample preparation to cater for the vast number of incoming samples. Dr. Scott Stanley, Associate Professor of Analytical Chemistry and Pharmacology and head of the laboratory, decided to invest in a comprehensive Thermo Scientific solution combining an Aria TLX-2 system utilizing Thermo Scientific TurboFlow technology with a TSQ Vantage triple stage quadrupole mass spectrometer. Researchers have been able to detect very small quantities (low parts per trillion) of substances in blood long after an illegal administration. The labor-intensive SPE and LLE procedures have been eliminated.

Dr. Stanley comments, “The system has streamlined our method development phase, eliminated lengthy and costly sample preparation steps, increased sample throughput and improved detection sensitivity and accuracy. In addition, the method limit of quantitation has improved five – ten fold over previous methods. The new system has become the cornerstone for our AAS research and regulatory testing program and I would estimate overall savings of several hundred thousand dollars. The initial return on investment will take approximately 18-20 months with the instrument life expectancy being five to seven years minimum.”

For more information on the Aria TLX-2 turbulent flow chromatography system and the TSQ Vantage triple stage quadrupole mass spectrometer, please call +1 800-532-4752, email or visit or

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