Scientists capture molecular maps of animal tissue with unprecedented detail | 9/6/2019 | Staff
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We've all heard, and seen, how a picture paints a thousand words. Now, in a scientific twist on that saying, researchers at the Florida State University-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (National MagLab), are creating pictures that paint thousands of molecules.

Using a uniquely powerful instrument, the scientists have refined a technique called mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) that translates reams of data into detailed visuals of the molecular makeup of biological samples. Their work, published this week in Analytical Chemistry, features images with mass resolution so high that every color in the image represents a distinct kind of molecule.

MSI - Years - Scientists - Technique - Mass

MSI is not new. For years, scientists have used the technique to convert mass spectrometry analyses of a sample's chemical makeup into spatial representations showing which molecules occur where.

What is different now, explained National MagLab chemist Don Smith, corresponding author on the study, is the breadth and depth of the data generated with the lab's world-record 21-tesla ion cyclotron resonance (ICR) mass spectrometer, called the "21-T" for short. Tesla is a unit of magnetic field strength; a fridge magnet has a field of about 0.01 tesla and a typical hospital MRI magnet has a field of 2 or 3 teslas.

Enables - Spectrometry - Images - Definition - Pixels

The 21-T enables mass spectrometry images to become ultra-high definition, with many more pixels making up the image.

"I like to think of this as the most information per pixel—how much chemical information we can get from each pixel in a given amount of time," Smith said. "We are observing new molecules that have never been observed, never been mass resolved in tissue before."

Year - Smith - Ron - Heeren - Maastricht

Last year, Smith teamed up with Ron Heeren from the Maastricht MultiModal Molecular Imaging Institute at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. With their team, the scientists ran a month's worth of experiments in the 21-T, examining brain tissue from healthy rats. In...
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