Biomarkers Core

Core Directors: Dr. Richard Minshall and Dr. Eric Pamer, MD


Beyond making available state-of-the-art, user-friendly facility and services, the Biomarkers Core enables education, assay development, and sample analysis services for the environmental health researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago, regarding biomarkers of exposure, disease and therapeutic response as well as the levels of the environmental toxins. In particular, CACHET investigators/members will have access to resources within this core at discounted, internal rates, regardless of their campus affiliation.
Technologies and types of measurements that will be provided including qualitative and quantitative analysis of a wide variety of biomarkers and environmental toxins using ultrahigh-pressure or high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (UHP)LC-MS and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) measurements and measurement of metals in biological specimens and environmental samples using inductively-coupled plasma (ICP)-MS. All the equipment and instrument are consolidated at Mass spectrometry, metabolomics & proteomics facility (MMPF) at UIC campus. A majority of CACHET members from UIC and U of C campus will take the advantage of obtaining fast turn-around analytical measurement locally instead of sending samples out of state as is the current practice for many. The following workflow shows the interactions of CACHET members with the Biomarkers Core:


Equipped with the state-of-the-art modern mass spectrometers, Biomarkers Core provides many types of mass spectrometry-based measurements to facilitate the research of CACHET members. The following mass spectrometers located in UIC are available for use by CACHET members:

  • NexION 300/250S ICP-MS spectrometer with tri-mode detection
  • Thermo Orbitrap Velos PRO with Agilent NanoLC system.
  • Agilent 6410 triple quadrupole mass spectrometer equipped with electrospray and atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI), and Agilent 1200 HPLC system.
  • Agilent 6410 triple quadrupole mass spectrometer equipped with Agilent 1200 HPLC and electrospray, APCI, and atmospheric pressure photoionization (APPI).
  • Agilent 6545 Jet-stream QToF high resolution MS/MS equipped with electrospray, APCI and Agilent 1290 UPLC/SFC systems.
  • Shimadzu IT-ToF high resolution ion trap time-of-flight hybrid mass spectrometer equipped with electrospray, APCI, and a Shimadzu UHPLC system.
  • Applied Biosystems API 5500 Q-trap tandem mass spectrometer equipped with Agilent 1260 UPLC.
  • Applied Biosystems API 6500 Q-trap tandem mass spectrometer with Agilent 1290 UHPLC system.
  • JEOL GCMate II​Magnetic Sector Gas chromatography mass spectrometer

Featured Equipment


NexION 300 ICP

QTRAP 6500

Agilent 6545


The Biomarkers Core provides CACHET investigators qualitative and quantitative analysis regarding biomarkers of exposure, disease and therapeutic response as well as the levels of environmental toxins. Biomarkers and toxic agents will be analyzed in human subjects, model systems and environmental samples in the following areas based on the instrumentation:

Trace Elements/Metals analysis by ICP-MS
Equipped for quantitative and qualitative analysis of a full spectrum of heavy metals and metalloids in trace and larger concentrations in biological and environmental samples. Trace metal quality sample preparation is also available.
Trace Metals are typically analyzed including V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Mo, Cd, Sn, Sb, Hg, Pb. g. Materials are frequently analyzed including tissue, soil, water, nails, hair, urine, blood and milk.

View ICP-MS PowerPoint

Biomarkers/toxins analysis by LC/MS
Seven state-of-the-art LC/MS are available for services, providing identification and quantitative analysis for different sample matrices including tissue, water, blood and urine. The analytes include protein/peptide, nucleic acid, carbohydrate, lipid and other organic compounds. Sample preparation and bioinformatics services are also available.

Targeted/untargeted Metabolomics/proteomics by LC/MS
Taking advantage of technologies such as nanoLC, UHPLC and SFC (super-critical fluid chromatography), both targeted and untargeted metabolomics/proteomics services are available for complex samples in the Biomarkers Core, aiming to improve diagnosis, prevention and monitoring of many diseases through metabolic and proteomic profiling.

Pesticide analysis by LC/MS
Followed the standardized EPA protocol, LC/MS analysis on common pesticides has been established in the core, including DTT, glyphosate, atrazine and simazine from food, water and biological fluids.

Trace organic pollutant analysis by GC/MS
For the analysis of volatile molecules including many pesticides and halogenated persistent pollutants, GC-MS measurement is available. The samples can be prepared from soils, sediment, dust, sludge, air sampling cartridges, and human blood and tissues.
Scientists in our core can design and conduct experimental protocols, analyze data and provide pre-experimental consultation to CACHET investigators who seek to incorporate mass spectrometry based experimental strategies into their research programs. Researchers may submit samples to the Biomarkers Core for service directly. Alternatively, qualified users may schedule instrument time to analyze their own samples after taking training courses of instrument operation.


Pricing available upon request.
For general information, please contact Dr. Hui Chen, Director of Mass Spectrometry, Metabolomics and Proteomics Facility at or (312) 996-7357.

Service Description Internal External
Trace elements in solution* Samples in solution or already digested $14 $21
Hot-Block digestion Acid digestion in hot-block for solid samples $20 $30
Bio-sample clean-up Nail or hair cleaning before digestion $5 $8
Mercury analysis by Direct Mercury Analyzer $5 $8
Method development On request On request

*Standard suite includes Al, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Ni, Co, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Mo, Cd, Sb, Sn, Pb