Updated at: 06/12/2013 at 11:27 am
The latest acquisition of high-end imaging mass spectrometers capability officially launched into the Australian research community last month.
Housed at The University of Melbourne Metabolomics Australia node, the imaging mass spectrometry instrument (a 7 Tesla FT-ICR-MS Solarix) from Bruker is dedicated to metabolomics studies and has the potential to determine the spatial distribution of many small molecules as well as lipids across various biological tissues.
The technology has the capability to measure compounds and their spatial distribution in tissue sections mounted on simple glass slides. It captures a moment in time.
It also has the potential to complement existing visualisation methods such as microscopy and PET and marrying them to existing mass spectrometry technologies. The platform assists research in the biomedical, agri-biotech and environmental sector and the team at Metabolomics Australia is extremely excited around the possibilities.
Zofia Felton, Business Manager of Metabolomics Australia, said “Nothing beats the power of the physical image and mass spectrometry coupled with that image, adds a different dimension to our current capabilities.
“Metabolomics Australia is proud to introduce this new capability to the Australian research community. The impact of seeing a small molecule distribution across a tissue structure is astounding,” she said.
The instrument has the potential to monitor changes in the distribution of metabolites; for instance during an infection and or throughout a treatment of varying diseases. An important application of MALDI-IMS is in cancer research where the identification of cancer specific metabolites across a tissue may enable surgeons to remove cancerous tissues with a great precision from surrounding healthy tissues.
This type of application has been called “the intelligent knife” and represents an exciting translation of research outputs into the clinic. In the agri-biotech sector it has already been used in pilot experiment to compare the metabolite distribution in a barley roots upon osmotic stress.
Associate Professor Ute Roessner of the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics node in The University of Melbourne said that this new technology will allow researchers to identify novel mechanisms plant roots employ when dealing with osmotic stresses and most importantly will allow us to visualise the location of these mechanisms across a root. The ultimate aim is to transfer novel stress tolerance mechanisms to create novel biotech crops with sustained or increased yield performance even when grown under challenging conditions.
The Imaging MS was bought with a grant from the Federal Government Department of Education Infrastructure funding and its operation is supported by The University of Melbourne.