(Un)targeted scanning of locks of hair for drugs of abuse by direct analysis in real time-high-resolution mass spectrometry

W.F. Duvivier*, Marc van Rutten, T.A. van Beek, M.W.F. Nielen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Forensic hair evidence can be used to obtain retrospective timelines of drug use by analysis of hair segments. However, this is a laborious and time-consuming process, and mass spectrometric (MS) imaging techniques, which show great potential for single-hair targeted analysis, are less useful due to differences in hair growth rate between individual hairs. As an alternative, a fast untargeted analysis method was developed that uses direct analysis in real time–high-resolution mass spectrometry (DART-HRMS) to longitudinally scan intact locks of hair without extensive sample preparation or segmentation. The hair scan method was validated for cocaine against an accredited liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) method. The detection limit for cocaine in hair was found to comply with the cutoff value of 0.5 ng/mg recommended by the Society of Hair Testing; that is, the DART hair scan method is amenable to forensic cases. Under DART conditions, no significant thermal degradation of cocaine occurred. The standard DART spot size of 5.1 ± 1.1 mm could be improved to 3.3 ± 1.0 mm, corresponding to approximately 10 days of hair growth, by using a high spatial resolution exit cone. By use of data-dependent product ion scans, multiple drugs of abuse could be detected in a single drug user hair scan with confirmation of identity by both exact mass and MS/HRMS fragmentation patterns. Furthermore, full-scan high-resolution data were retrospectively interrogated versus a list of more than 100 compounds and revealed additional hits and temporal profiles in good correlation with reported drug use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2489-2496
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


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