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Bio-imaging mass spectrometry techniques reveal molecular details about complex systems
Date:9/25/2008

Understanding biology at the systems level is difficult, especially when studying complex specimens like tissue slices or communities of organisms in a biofilm. Scientists must be able to identify, quantify and locate the molecules present in the samples.

At Georgia Tech, researchers from the Colleges of Sciences and Engineering have joined forces to create the Center for Bio-Imaging Mass Spectrometry (BIMS), which aims to tackle these types of challenges.

"We organized this center in 2007 when we saw the enormous potential of mass spectrometry imaging tools and realized that we had a unique ensemble of people at Georgia Tech that would enable us to excel in this field," said Al Merrill, a professor in the School of Biology and the Smithgall Chair in Molecular Cell Biology.

Mass spectrometry imaging is a powerful analytical technique with the potential to unravel the molecular complexities of biological systems. It allows researchers to visualize the spatial arrangement and relative abundance of specific molecules from simple metabolites to peptides and proteins in biological samples.

The technique also takes advantage of the ability of biological molecules to be converted into ions that can then be separated and analyzed by a mass spectrometer. When data are collected from different regions of a sample, the distribution of molecules can be used to create multidimensional images of that sample.

Today, a popular method for studying biological samples is matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS). In this technique, sample preparation plays a very important role in image quality because it requires that a matrix compound be uniformly deposited over the surface of a histological tissue slice mounted on a special plate.

In the April 15 issue of the journal Analytical Chemistry, a research team including Merrill, Cameron Sullards, director of Georgia Tech's Bioanalyt
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Contact: Abby Vogel
avogel@gatech.edu
404-385-3364
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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