Automation and validation of a MALDI-TOF MS (Mass-Fix) replacement of immunofixation electrophoresis in the clinical lab

Mindy Kohlhagen, Surendra Dasari, Maria Willrich, Melea Hetrick, Brian Netzel, Angela Dispenzieri, David L. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A matrix assisted laser desorption ionization time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) method (Mass-Fix) as a replacement for gel-based immunofixation (IFE) has been recently described. To utilize Mass-Fix clinically, a validated automated method was required. Our aim was to automate the pre-analytical processing, improve positive specimen identification and ergonomics, reduce paper data storage and increase resource utilization without increasing turnaround time. Serum samples were batched and loaded onto a liquid handler along with reagents and a barcoded sample plate. The pre-analytical steps included: (1) Plating immunopurification beads. (2) Adding 10 μl of serum. (3) Bead washing. (4) Eluting the immunoglobulins (Igs), and reducing to separate the heavy and light Ig chains. The resulting plate was transferred to a second low-volume liquid handler for MALDI plate spotting. MALDI-TOF mass spectra were collected. Integrated in-house developed software was utilized for sample tracking, driving data acquisition, data analysis, history tracking, and result reporting. A total of 1,029 residual serum samples were run using the automated system and results were compared to prior electrophoretic results. The automated Mass-Fix method was capable of meeting the validation requirements of concordance with IFE, limit of detection (LOD), sample stability and reproducibility with a low repeat rate. Automation and integrated software allowed a single user to process 320 samples in an 8 h shift. Software display facilitated identification of monoclonal proteins. Additionally, the process maintains positive specimen identification, reduces manual pipetting, allows for paper free tracking, and does not significantly impact turnaround time (TAT). Mass-Fix is ready for implementation in a high-throughput clinical laboratory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-163
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • M-proteins
  • immunofixation
  • mass spectrometry
  • plasma cell disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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