Hair as an alternative matrix in bioanalysis

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Abstract

Alternative matrices are steadily gaining recognition as biological samples for toxicological analyses. Hair presents many advantages over traditional matrices, such as urine and blood, since it provides retrospective information regarding drug exposure, can distinguish between chronic and acute or recent drug use by segmental analysis, is easy to obtain, and has considerable stability for long periods of time. For this reason, it has been employed in a wide variety of contexts, namely to evaluate workplace drug exposure, drug-facilitated sexual assault, pre-natal drug exposure, anti-doping control, pharmacological monitoring and alcohol abuse. In this article, issues concerning hair structure, collection, storage and analysis are reviewed. The mechanisms of drug incorporation into hair are briefly discussed. Analytical techniques for simultaneous drug quantification in hair are addressed. Finally, representative examples of drug quantification using hair are summarized, emphasizing its potentialities and limitations as an alternative biological matrix for toxicological analyses.

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