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Anal Chem. 2008 Dec 1;80(23):9058-64. doi: 10.1021/ac8015278.

A new dynamic in mass spectral imaging of single biological cells.

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  • 1Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre, School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.


Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS) has unique capabilities in the area of high-resolution mass spectrometric imaging of biological samples. The technique offers parallel detection of native and non-native molecules at physiological concentrations with potentially submicrometer spatial resolution. Recent advances in SIMS technology have been focused on generating new ion sources that can in turn be used to eject more intact molecular and biological characteristic species from a sample. The introduction of polyatomic ion beams, particularly C60, for TOF-SIMS analysis has created a whole new application of molecular depth profiling and 3D molecular imaging. However, such analyses, particularly at high lateral resolution, are severely hampered by the accompanying mass spectrometry associated with current TOF-SIMS instruments. Hence, we have developed an instrument that overcomes many of the drawbacks of current TOF-SIMS spectrometers by removing the need to pulse the primary ion beam. The instrument samples the secondary ions using a buncher that feeds into a specially designed time-of-flight analyzer. We have validated this new instrumental concept by analyzing a number of biological samples generating 2D and 3D images showing molecular localization on a subcellular scale, over a practical time frame, while maintaining high mass resolution. We also demonstrate large area mapping and the MS/MS capability of the instrument.

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