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Anal Chem. 2013 May 21;85(10):4998-5004. doi: 10.1021/ac4002063. Epub 2013 May 1.

Characterization of polymer membranes by MALDI mass-spectrometric imaging techniques.

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  • 1Charité-Universitaetsmedizin Berlin, Medizinische Klinik IV, Berlin, Germany.


For physical and chemical characterization of polymers, a wide range of analytical methods is available. Techniques like NMR and X-ray are often combined for a detailed characterization of polymers used in medical applications. Over the past few years, MALDI mass-spectrometry has been developed as a powerful tool for space-resolved analysis, not least because of its mass accuracy and high sensitivity. MALDI imaging techniques combine the potential of mass-spectrometric analysis with imaging as additional spatial information. MALDI imaging enables the visualization of localization and distribution of biomolecules, chemical compounds, and other molecules on different surfaces. In this study, surfaces of polymeric dialyzer membranes, consisting of polysulfone (PS) and polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), were investigated, regarding chemical structure and the compound's distribution. Flat membranes as well as hollow fiber membranes were analyzed by MALDI imaging. First, analysis parameters like laser intensity and laser raster step size (spatial resolution in resulting image) were established in accordance with polymer's characteristics. According to the manufacturing process, luminal and abluminal membrane surfaces are characterized by differences in chemical composition and physical characteristics. The MALDI imaging demonstrated that the abluminal membrane surface consists more of polysulfone than polyvinylpyrrolidone, and the luminal membrane surface displayed more PVP than PS. The addition of PVP as hydrophilic modifier to polysulfone-based membranes increases the biocompatibility of the dialysis membranes. The analysis of polymer distribution is a relevant feature for characterization of dialysis membranes. In conclusion, MALDI imaging is a powerful technique for polymer membrane analysis, regarding not only detection and identification of polymers but also localization and distribution in membrane surfaces.

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