Sonication for Drug Testing and Drug Potency Analysis

Ultrasonic homogenization and extraction is a common sample preparation technique before drug analysis, e.g. for quality tests, evaluation of raw materials and potency tests. Probe-type ultrasonicators are widely used for the release of active substances such as APIs, bioactive plant compounds and other substances.

Pre-Analytcial Sample Preparation in Drug Testing using Ultrasonication

Ultrasonicator UP200Ht (200 watts, 26kHz) with microtip S26d2 for the preparation of biological samplesDrug potency test are necessary to determine how much of an active compound is in a drug sample. Drug analysis and drug potency testing is used in the field of pharmacology, toxicology and forensics. Due to specificity and efficiency, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is the most commonly used methodology in drug potency analysis.
The key difference between assay and potency is that an assay is the testing of a material to determine its ingredients and quality whereas potency is the amount of a drug required to get an effect at its maximum intensity. Usage of these two terms, assay and potency, are common in biochemistry and pharmacology.
Ultrasonication is applied before potency analysis and assays in order to release bioactive ingredients or active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) from a matrix. Ultrasonication can extract target compounds from plant materials (e.g., leaves, roots etc.) or dissolve a pharmaceutical dosage form such as tablets in order to make the active ingredient available for subsequent analysis.

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Ultrasonic lab dismembrators UP100H and UP400St for sample preparation (homogenization, extraction) before drug screening and drug potency analysis.

Ultrasonic homogenizers UP100H (100 watts) and UP400St (400 watts) for pre-analytical sample preparation steps such as homogenization and extraction.

Ultrasonic Terpene Extraction from Hops: Ultrasonic extraction is performed using the Hielscher UP100H isolating caryophyllene and other terpenes from hop cones.

Ultrasonic Terpene Extraction of Hops with UP100H

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Step-by-step Protocol for Drug Analysis

Sample preparation is an important step in drug analysis and drug potency testing and involves several steps to ensure accurate and reproducible results. The following are the general steps involved in sample preparation before drug potency analysis:

  1. Sample Collection: The first step is to collect an appropriate sample of the drug product, which can be either in solid, liquid, or semisolid form. It is important to ensure that the sample is representative of the entire batch and is stored and handled properly to maintain its quality and stability.
  2. Sample Homogenization: The sample should be homogenized to ensure that the drug is evenly distributed throughout the sample. This step is critical for solid and semisolid samples. Ultrasonication is a highly efficient and reliable homogenization method and therefore commonly applied in sample preparation. Read more about the application of ultrasonic homogenizers for sample preparation!
  3. If the target substance is entrapped into a cellular matrix (e.g. plant material, cell tissue), the substance must be released before an analytic measurement or assay can be performed. Ultrasonic extraction is the superior technique to make entrapped substances available for collection and analysis. Read more about ultrasonic extraction of bioactive compounds!
  4. Sample Size Reduction: The next step is to reduce the sample volume to an appropriate amount for analysis. This can be achieved by weighing a portion of the sample or by using a sample divider.
  5. Sample Dilution: If the sample concentration is too high, it may need to be diluted to bring it within the linear range of the assay. The diluent used should be appropriate for the drug and the assay method being used.
  6. Sample Aliquoting: The diluted sample should be aliquoted into individual portions to ensure that the same amount of sample is used for each assay. This step helps to reduce variability between assays and improve reproducibility.
  7. Sample Storage: The aliquoted samples should be stored under appropriate conditions, such as refrigeration or freezer storage, to maintain their stability until they are ready to be analyzed.

These steps are general guidelines for sample preparation and may vary depending on the specific drug and assay method being used. It is important to follow the instructions provided by the assay manufacturer to ensure accurate and reliable results.

UP200St TD_CupHorn for the indirect sonication of samples

UP200St-CupHorn for the indirect sonication of samples

How promotes ultrasound the isolation of bioactive compounds from plant material?

Bioactive compounds such as terpenes, cannabinoids or flavonoids can be isolated from plants using an ultrasound-based process called ultrasonic extraction, which involves the treatment of a slurry consisting in the ground plant material in a solvent (e.g. alcohol, water, aqueous ethanol, hexane etc.) with high-power ultrasound. Applying intense ultrasonication to a liquid or slurry results in the generation of acoustic cavitation. The phenomenon of acoustic cavitation is characterized by locally occurring very energy-dense conditions of very high pressure and temperature differentials as well as liquid jets and shear forces. In this energy-dense field, cell walls are perforated and broken-up so that intracellular material is release into the surrounding solvent. After the sonication process, the target molecules are completely released from the cellular matrix and float in the solvent. Via isolation techniques such as evaporation or distillation, the target substance can be purified and further processed if necessary.
Ultrasonic extraction is used in the production of bioactive compounds (e.g., adaptogens, essential oils, cannabis- & terpene-rich products) for consumption as nutritional supplements, food additives and therapeutics as well as in the analysis of drugs.

Ultrasonic extraction and purification of phytochemicals from plants: The picture shows the probe-type ultrasonicator UP400ST, a Büchi vacuum filter and rotor-evaporator for the extraction of curcumin.

Extraction setup for botanical isolation: Probe-type ultrasonicator UP400ST, Büchi vacuum filter and rotor-evaporator for the extraction of phytochemicals.

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Ultrasonic Lab Homogenizers for Sample Preparation before Drug Analysis

Hielscher Ultrasonics develops, manufactures and supplies high-performance ultrasonicators for homogenization and extraction. Hielscher ultrasonic homogenizers and extractors are used in the pharmaceutical industry and nutritional supplement manufacturing in production and quality assessment. Ultrasonic homogenizers are also used for sample preparation in drug testing including screening for illegal substances in drugs, counterfeited drugs and human samples.
With features such as precise amplitude regulation, automatic data protocolling and browser remote control, Hielscher ultrasonicators allow for a highly standardized sample preparation.

The table below gives you an indication of the approximate processing capacity of our ultrasonic systems from compact hand-held homogenizers and MultiSample Ultrasonicators to industrial ultrasonic processors for commercial applications:

Batch Volume Flow Rate Recommended Devices
various vials and vessels n.a. CupHorn
multi-well/ microtiter plates n.a. UIP400MTP
10 vials à 0.5 to 1.5mL n.a. VialTweeter at UP200St
0.01 to 250mL 5 to 100mL/min UP50H
0.01 to 500mL 10 to 200mL/min UP100H
10 to 1000mL 20 to 200mL/min UP200Ht
10 to 2000mL 20 to 400mL/min UP400St

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This video shows the 200 watts ultrasonic cuphorn for dispersing, homogenizing, extracting or degassing of lab samples.

Ultrasonic Cuphorn (200 Watts)

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Ultrasonic high-shear homogenizers are used in lab, bench-top, pilot and industrial processing.

Hielscher Ultrasonics manufactures high-performance ultrasonic homogenizers for mixing applications, dispersion, emulsification and extraction on lab, pilot and industrial scale.



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High performance ultrasonics! Hielscher's product range covers the full spectrum from the compact lab ultrasonicator over bench-top units to full-industrial ultrasonic systems.

Hielscher Ultrasonics manufactures high-performance ultrasonic homogenizers from lab to industrial size.


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