the development and application of analytical methods for the life sciences, biology, and medicine; and
the creation and adaptation of biological molecules and systems for analytical applications.
to update readers on developments in the implementation of analytical methods;
to provide a limited survey on modern applications; and
to offer some visions and trends for the future of bioanalysis.
Thus, the special issue provides both a status report on current developments and an outlook on future trends in upcoming fields; it thus complements the numerous other special issues in ABC which have been devoted to selected fields of applications of (bio)analytical methods, e.g. forensic analysis, marine ecotoxicology, diagnostic assays, allergens in foods, antibiotics in food and the environment, mycotoxins, phytotoxins and cyanotoxins, and GMOs.
Further special issues have recently featured not only methods and tools of instrumental analysis, e.g. mass spectroscopy, optical sensing, bioanalytical luminescence, quantum dots for luminescence, analytical separations, tools for the nanoworld, but also biological recognition, e.g. analysis of cytochrome P-450 and RNA analysis. Looking at the special issues highlighting analytical research in different countries—such as that published on Germany in 2009—it becomes very apparent that in recent years the interest, development, and application of bioanalysis have increased tremendously in comparison with the former focus on chemical analysis. The use of the classical methods of separation techniques, spectroscopy, and spectrometry in bioanalysis require only small adaptation to be applicable in many fields, even in “omics”.
The use of biological molecules and systems as recognition elements permits new applications such as in process analysis (not only in biotechnology), going to very low concentrations in environmental samples; measuring, without sample preparation, in specimens such as milk, meat, or blood; and using artificial membranes and pores and nanoparticles with imprinting. Drastic signal enhancement will be enabled by taking advantage of dendrimer-like structures and using tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy.
The use of imaging and biophotonics in bioanalysis is another important new application fields, such as approaches that label of carrier molecules which will pass the membrane barrier into the cell. In fact, subsequent single-molecule detection or near-field optics are a prerequisite for understanding biological and medical incidents, and in the future will be one of the requirements of system biology for the study of signalling chains. Especially the new methods in near-field optics will bring research in medicine an enormous step forward.
It is important to realize how essential good analysis is in many of these new areas. For instance, imaging techniques will make it possible to overcome stochastic problems by looking at single molecules. In the biophotonics area analysts need to contribute their knowledge in order to achieve results that are quantitatively reliable. Also, challenges associated with nano- or micro-based analytical systems are plentiful and go beyond successful design, fabrication, testing, and statistics. The need for quality assurance as related to LODs, LOQs, and plausibility control is especially apparent as collaborations with biologists, physicians, and biochemists increase. This is valid also for another upcoming field—point-of-care testing and other evolutions in clinical diagnostics. Miniaturization, parallelization, and imaging are important topics in this issue of the journal, reflecting the intense research in these areas, supported by calls from numerous funding agencies such as the European Commission, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health, to name but a few.
Numerous challenges in modern analytical and, especially, bioanalytical research lie ahead of us. ABC feels not only well prepared to inform the scientific community and to supply outstanding progress reports, but also to reveal limitations and kinks in the solutions of scientific problems that need to be addressed.