University of Texas at Arlington
researchers have unveiled a powerful new tool for catching bad behavior in the
sports world – a testing method for evidence of performance-enhancing drugs that
can be up to 1,000 times more sensitive than many current tests.
A UT Arlington team lead by Dr. Daniel W. Armstrong has come up with a new, more sensitive test for evidence of performance enhancing drugs.
Daniel W. Armstrong, who holds
the UT Arlington Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry, and Hongyue Guo, a
graduate student in Armstrong’s lab, presented the research this week at the
247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical
Society in Dallas.
“How much of a drug someone took or how long
ago they took it are beyond the analyst’s control. The only thing you can
control is how sensitive your method is,” Armstrong said. “Our goal is to
develop ultra-sensitive methods that will extend the window of detection, and we
may have developed one of the most sensitive methods in the world.”
According to the
American Chemical Society, the new strategy is a simple variation on a common
testing technique called mass spectrometry, which the International Olympic
Committee, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and others routinely use to ensure
athletes are “clean.”
Mass spectrometry separates
compounds by mass, or weight, allowing scientists to determine the component
parts of a mixture. In the case of performance enhancing drugs, technicians use
the method to find the bits left over in blood, urine or other body fluids
after the body breaks the substances down.
Because some of the pieces, or metabolites,
are small and have a negative charge, they may not produce a signal strong
enough for the instrument to detect, Armstrong explained – especially in the
case of stimulants, which the body rapidly eliminates. Stimulants like
amphetamine, or “speed,” increase alertness and reduce an athlete’s sense of
The method Armstrong’s lab has pioneered is called
paired ion electrospray ionization (PIESI, pronounced “PIE-zee”). It gathers several
of those drug bits together, making them more obvious to the detector. The new
method does not require additional equipment for testing labs, only the
addition of a chemical the Armstrong team designed which is now commercially
available and relatively inexpensive, Guo said.
“Dr. Armstrong’s pioneering
methods for improving chemical separations have been honored with a long list
of national and international awards, including his being named a fellow of the
American Chemical Society,” said Carolyn Cason, vice president for research at
UT Arlington. “Equally impressive is his continual quest to apply those
principals to issues that face society and to involve the students he mentors
in those explorations. This work is an example of the impressive results that
stem from those endeavors.”
The UT Arlington team explained
their research at a news conference in Dallas Wednesday. Video from that event
is available online at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/45066065.
Armstrong joined UT
Arlington in 2006 and is the author of more than 550 scientific publications,
including 29 book chapters, and holds 23 U.S. and international patents. During
this week’s conference, he is also being honored with the ACS Award in
Separation Science and Technology, which is sponsored by Waters Corp.
received the ACS Award for Chromatography in 1999 and has also won the 1998 ACS
Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach, as well as numerous other awards. Last
year, he was named to the 2013 class of ACS Fellows.
The American Chemical Society
is the world’s largest scientific society, with 161,000 members.
About UT Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research
institution and the second largest institution in The University of Texas
System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the
seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News &
World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate
diversity. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.