The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has published a list of 20 psychoactive plants that have high potential for abuse. Through the application of mass spectrometry techniques and chemometric processing, a number of hurdles currently faced by legislators and law enforcement can be circumvented, including species identification, quantitation, and evidence of exposure.
Mass spectrometry imaging techniques allow for not only collecting accurate and useful chemical information, but allows samples to be interrogated for the spatial distribution of molecules. Advances in our lab are applicable to a variety of fields and numerous applications, including the development of a new ambient imaging technique, Laser Ablation Direct analysis in real time Imaging Mass Spectrometry, LADI-MS.
Multivariate statistical analysis and mass spectrometry analysis of necrophagous insects can be used in tandem for species-level identification. This has implications for post-mortem interval determination in suspicious death investigations, as current techniques suffer from a multitude of various inconveniences which can slow or halt an investigation when time is a critical element.
Organosulfur compounds are widely observed in nature serving a variety of purposes, including being utilized in plant chemical defense behavior. Our lab has worked to study and quantify the various lachrymatory, antimicrobial, and enzyme inactivating small molecules associated with Petiveria alliacea chemical defense pathways. These findings may provide a basis for the understanding of the previously-unknown mechanisms of defense in other Allium species, including onions and garlic.
In addition to psychoactive plants, a similar approach is being taken to address the hundreds of synthetic cathinones, cannabinoids, and tryptamines that are currently unscheduled. The method being developed will be robust enough to handle newly developed synthetics containing similar chemical motifs as well, which will enable law enforcement and medical practitioners to stay ahead of the curve.