Investigating the effect of oil spills
on the environment and public health.
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Funding Source: Year One Block Grant - Louisiana State University

Project Overview

Monitoring Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Exposure in Seafood with Imaging Mass Spectrometry

Principal Investigator
Louisiana State University
Department of Chemistry
Member Institutions
Louisiana State University, Louisiana State University Ag Center


As much as one-third of the oil entering the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon well consists of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These compounds are soluble in water, toxic, and can be absorbed by seafood, rendering it tainted by smell and hazardous to consumers. The standard method for the determination of PAHs in seafood is gas chromatography combined with mass spectrometry, which is sensitive, but requires time-consuming extractions and separation steps that can take many hours to complete. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) mass spectrometry is a rapid method of analysis that can provide results in a few minutes. It can also be used to obtain the spatial profile of chemical compounds in tissue (MALDI imaging).

In the proposed research, seafood samples (shrimp and oysters) obtained from the LSU Agricultural Center will be frozen, sectioned, and analyzed with MALDI imaging. This is a novel application of MS imaging and will involve the development of new matrix materials and sample preparation methods that can be used widely throughout the research community. Samples will be run in parallel by GC/MS for comparison and quantification.

The proposed research involves a collaboration between the PI and Dr. John Finley of the LSU department of food science, an expert in food quality analysis. An inter-institutional collaboration with Dr. Timothy Short with the SRI International Marine Technology Program, Chemical Sensors Group. The results of this research program will be used to leverage additional funding both for basic research in chemical analysis as well as applications in public health and environmental monitoring. The education and outreach portion of this project involves a collaboration with the Cain Center at LSU and will sponsor a Masters of Natural Science (MNS) student teacher who will participate in the project and interact with local K-12 classes.

This research was made possible by a grant from BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.