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Matrix-assisted laser desorption-ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry is an important tool for the analysis of biomolecules and identification of microbes. The analyte is mixed with a matrix substance. Laser energy vaporizes and ionizes the matrix, which in turns ionizes the analyte. This "soft" ionization method preserves delicate biomolecules that would otherwise fragment if harsher ionization techniques were used. The ionized components in the sample move down the time-of-flight tube and their mass-to-charge ratios are compared to stored libraries/profiles of biomolecules. MALDI TOF mass spectrometry is widely used in protein identification, structural studies, and clinical assays. It is also an accurate means of genotyping DNA samples and is also being used for rapid identification of microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast. (Credit: Muhammad Atif Khan)
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