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Meeting the Biotin Challenge with Mass Spectrometry

Team TFS
Team TFS
shutterstock_791826643Nowadays, people are using a lot of nutritional and dietary supplements. Influence from social media, high drug prices, and the burden of hectic lifestyles are compelling consumers to try supplements as alternatives to prescribed drugs. Global supplement annual sales reached $121.2 Billion in 2016, with 5.7 percent growth over the previous year, with the market primarily driven by increased consumer awareness for preventative healthcare. In the age of personalized medicine, personalized nutrition is expected to prompt spending on supplements. However, as people pay more attention to their health and increase their consumption of supplements, they may actually be hindering their own healthcare.

Despite the lack of clinical evidence, high-concentration biotin supplements are becoming popular for their promise to promote hair, skin and nail health. The daily recommended intake of biotin – also known as vitamin B7— is 30 micrograms (mcg), but many biotin supplements marketed for beauty reasons contain much higher doses, ranging from 5,000 mcg to 10,000 mcg. Excess biotin can interfere with healthcare tests that use biotin as part of the reagents or method.  Affected tests may end up reporting incorrect results.

Immunoassays are widely used for routine clinical testing, including drugs of abuse testing, therapeutic drug monitoring, and hormone testing. A long-established step in many immunoassays includes using biotin and streptavidin labelled reagents for signal detection. Ingesting high levels of biotin in dietary or nutritional supplements may interfere with the biotin-streptavidin interaction and cause falsely high or falsely low test results.

Mass spectrometry is increasingly being used in clinical research testing. Unlike immunoassays, mass spectrometry provides confident and reliable test results without interference from high levels of biotin. The dramatic rise in the use of supplements like biotin creates an unexpected challenge for clinical research scientists. Mass spectrometry not only provides a solution to this challenge, it offers a host of different advantages for clinical research testing. These include improved accuracy and reproducibility, the ability to measure molecules not amenable to existing techniques, and the possibility of lower per-test costs.

Mass spectrometry has a growing offering of clinical research tests and future applications are being intensely pursued. These include targeted protein analysis and tissue imaging analysis. The increased utilization of mass spectrometry points to better testing options available and could potentially replace immunoassays for routine clinical research testing. Thermo Fisher Scientific provides scientists with leading edge technology to ensure people get effective healthcare in spite of their creative use of supplements.


(28 November 2017) Food and Drug Administration. Biotin (Vitamin B7): Safety Communication – May Int...

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