dr. Marta Costas Rodríguez (PhD)

CRIG member
Marta Costas Rodríguez

Post-doctoral researcher - Department of Analytical Chemistry (Faculty of Sciences, UGent)
(PI: prof. Frank Vanhaecke)


Research focus

My research is focused on the determination and isotopic analysis of (trace) elements via inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Special attention is paid to the high-precision isotopic analysis of essential elements in a biomedical context by means of multi-collector ICP-MS. Alterations in the uptake, metabolism and/or excretion of the essential elements caused by disease conditions are reflected in isotopic variations. These natural isotopic variations result from isotope fractionation effects accompanying physical processes and (bio)chemical reactions and, are presumably affected by changes in the ligand coordination and/or redox conditions. The goal pursued is thus i) to obtain a more profound insight into metal metabolism, ii) to reveal the mechanisms governing these isotope ratio variations and iii) to evaluate the potential use of the isotopic variations in biofluids as an alternative approach or even as a potential biomarker for the early diagnosis and management of diseases, such as cancer. This goal requires the combination of in vivo and in vitro experimental research. Previous results aroused interest from a growing number of clinical researchers, with whom collaborations are ongoing. To date, the whole blood/serum Fe isotopic composition has been proved valuable to assess an individual´s Fe status and for distinguishing types of anemia in chronic kidney disease, while the serum Cu isotopic composition provided very promising results in the context of liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma. Moreover, tumorous tissues (oral squamous cell carcinoma) showed a Cu isotopic composition significanlty different from that for the adjacent non-tumoral tissue. From an analytical point of view, the development of reliable and simple analytical methods for the determination of the elemental and/or isotopic composition is also paid attention to, to solve scientific challenges in an interdisciplinary context.


I obtained my PhD degree with distinction in Chemistry at the University of Vigo (Spain) in 2011. My research was focused on the development and evaluation of analytical protocols for the determination of the elemental and/or isotopic composition of biological tissues. Simple and miniaturized sample preparation procedures preceding different analytical techniques, including inductively coupled plasma – mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), were developed. A miniaturized method relying on multielemental determination combined with different chemometric tools was applied to cancer research. Since 2012, I am working as a postdoctoral researcher in the ‘Atomic and Mass Spectrometry – A&MS’ research group at Ghent University, led by Prof. dr Frank Vanhaecke, first as a BOF postdoctoral researcher and later on as an FWO postdoctoral fellow. My current research interest is high-precision isotopic analysis of essential mineral elements in a biomedical context by means of multi-collector ICP-MS. This research is carried out in cooperation with various departments of the Ghent University Hospital and aims at developing new approaches for diagnosis and prognosis of diseases and providing new insights into human metabolism.

Key publications

  • Elemental and isotopic analysis of oral squamous cell carcinoma tissues using sector-field and multi-collector ICP-mass spectrometry. Talanta, 2017. (PMID: 28153324)
  • High-precision isotopic analysis of Cu in blood serum via multi-collector ICP-mass spectrometry for clinical investigation: steps towards improved robustness and higher sample throughput. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 2017. (DOI: 10.1039/c6ja00433d)
  • Iron isotopic composition of blood serum in anemia of chronic kidney disease. Metallomics, 2017. (PMID: 28417130)
  • Iron isotopic analysis of finger-prick and venous blood by multi-collector inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry after volumetric absorptive microsampling. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 2017. (DOI: 10.1039/C6JA00394J)
  • High-precision isotopic analysis of essential mineral elements in biomedicine: natural isotope ratio variations as potential diagnostic and/or prognostic markers. TrAC-Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 2016. (DOI: 10.1016/j.trac.2015.10.008)
  • Cu isotopic signature in blood serum of liver transplant patients: a follow-up study. Scientific Reports, 2016. (PMID:27468898)
  • Isotopic analysis of Cu in blood serum by multicollector ICP-mass spectrometry: a new approach for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cirrhosis?. Metallomics, 2015. (PMID: 25644127)
  • Elemental fingerprinting of tumorous and adjacent non-tumorous tissues from patients with colorectal cancer using ICP-MS, ICP-OES and chemometric analysis. Biometals, 2009. (PMID: 19340589)
  • Multiple small volume microwave-assisted digestions using conventional equipment for multielemental analysis of human breast biopsies by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry. Talanta, 2009. (PMID: 19084669)
  • Multielemental determination in breast cancerous and non-cancerous biopsies by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry following small volume microwave-assisted digestion. Analytica Chimica Acta, 2008. (PMID: 18602537)


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