Single hair cocaine consumption monitoring by mass spectrometric imaging

Anal Chem. 2011 Jun 1;83(11):4266-72. doi: 10.1021/ac200610c. Epub 2011 May 4.


Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometric imaging (MALDI-MSI) was used to image the distribution of cocaine and its metabolites in intact single hair samples from chronic users down to a concentration of 5 ng/mg. Acquisitions were performed in rastering mode, at a speed of 1 mm/s and in the selected reaction monitoring (SRM) mode on a MALDI triple quadrupole linear ion trap fitted with a high repetition rate laser (1 kHz). Compared to traditional methods based on LC-MS/MS or GC-MS(/MS) which require to segment the hair to obtain spatial resolution, MALDI-MSI, with a straightforward sample preparation beforehand, allowed obtaining a spatial resolution of 1 mm and thus the chronological information about cocaine consumption contained in a single intact hair over several months could be monitored. The analysis time of an intact single hair sample of 6 cm is approximately of 6 min. Cocaine and its metabolites benzoylecgonine, ethylcocaine, and norcocaine were investigated in nine sets of hair samples for forensic purposes. The analyses were accomplished by spraying α-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid (CHCA), 4-chloro-α-cyano-cinnamic acid (Cl-CCA), or (E)-2-cyano-3-(naphthalen-2-yl)acrylic acid (NpCCA) as MALDI matrices. We also propose a rapid strategy for sensitive confirmatory analyses with both MS/MS and MS(3) experiments performed directly on intact hair samples. Since only part of the hair strand is analyzed, additional analyses are possible at any time on the remaining hair from the strand.

MeSH terms

  • Cocaine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cocaine / analysis*
  • Cocaine / metabolism
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods*


  • norcocaine
  • benzoylecgonine
  • cocaethylene
  • Cocaine