Here’s What It Really Takes to Do Forensic Toxicology

You’ve seen it on television.  Law enforcement wants to determine a victim’s cause of death.  They take a blood, urine or tissue sample, run it through a fancy scientific instrument, and discover that the victim had some drug or toxin in their system.

Toxicology studies the harmful effects of drugs and chemicals on biological systems.  Forensic toxicology applies to criminal or legal situations.

When analyzing evidence, investigators may be looking for a specific compound in a sample – for instance, to see if a suspect’s urine contains a suspected designer drug.  Or they may be looking for any compounds of interest – for instance, to figure out a victim’s cause of death by analyzing tissue samples.  Either way, Agilent can help.

When looking for a specific list of compounds, the Agilent Forensic Toxicology tMRM Database can identify more than 2,800 different compounds.  When looking for all compounds of interest, the Agilent Forensic Toxicology Personal Compound Database and Library can screen for more than 9,200 targets, including more than 1,100 designer drugs.

How sensitive are Agilent instruments?  An Agilent high-performance LC/MS system can analyze a dried blood sample of less than 100 µL (millionths of a liter), about two drops of blood.

Once a compound is detected, users can click in the Agilent database and library to see a picture of the molecule, discover its close relatives or many uses, and click on website links to dive deeper into the chemistry.

Agilent uses a highly stringent curation process to ensure the quality of our compound databases and libraries.  We collaborate with experts including NMS Labs, Florida International University and the Institute of Legal Medicine in Germany to collect compound data.

We collect mass spectral data under controlled conditions using high purity reference standards.  Every single spectrum in the library is manually qualified by a specialized and highly skilled Ph.D. scientist.  Just as with forensic case samples, each library entry undergoes multiple levels of review to ensure data quality.

Forensic labs around the world depend on Agilent curated libraries for their mission-critical applications.  With such high stakes, the accuracy of these analyses is absolutely critical!

For Forensic Use


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