Imaging Mass Spectrometry
The molecular specificity and sensitivity of mass spectrometry (MS) has been employed in a new technology for direct mapping and imaging of biomolecules present in tissue sections. This technology has been developed using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization MS (MALDI MS)and has been initially targeted for the analysis of peptides and proteins present on or near the surface of tissue sections. Imaging MS brings a new tool to bear on the problem of unraveling and understanding the molecular complexities of cells. It joins techniques such as immunochemistry and fluorescence microscopy for the study of the spatial arrangement of molecules within biological tissues. (Ref. Markus Stoeckli, Pierre Chaurand, Dennis E. Hallahan & Richard M. Caprioli, Nature Medicine 7, 493-496 (2001))
In our lab, we are developing advanced optical techniques to significantly improve spatial resolution, selectivity, and throughput for imaging MS techniques. The figure below represents the idea of imaging MS as a means for identifying proteins in a spatially-resolved manner. The ability to image specific biological analytes is an emerging and important tool in many areas of life science research, such as spatially determining the expression of specific proteins in healthy vs. diseased tissue.