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Ambient ionization mass spectrometry imaging for disease diagnosis: Excitements and challenges

Abstract

Tissue analysis in histology is extremely important and also considered to be a gold standard to diagnose and prognosticate several diseases including cancer. Intraoperative evaluation of surgical margin of tumor also relies on frozen section histopathology, which is time consuming, challenging and often subjective. Recent development in the ambient ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) technique has enabled us to simultaneously visualize hundreds to thousands of molecules (ion images) in the biopsy specimen, which are strikingly different and more powerful than the single optical tissue image analysis in conventional histopathology. This paper will highlight the emergence of the desorption electrospray ionization MSI (DESI-MSI) technique, which is label-free, requires minimal or no sample preparation and operates under ambient conditions. DESI-MSI can record ion images of lipid/metabolite distributions on biopsy specimens, providing a wealth of diagnostic information based on differential distributions of these molecular species in healthy and unhealthy tissues. Remarkable success of this technology in rapidly evaluating the cancer margin intraoperatively with very high accuracy also promises to bring this imaging technique from bench to bedside.

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Acknowledgements

The author is thankful to Science and Engineering Research Board, Department of Science and Technology, India for providing Ramanujan Fellowship Research Grant (SB/S2/RJN-130/2017) and IISER Tirupati for providing infrastructure.

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Correspondence to Shibdas Banerjee.

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Dedicated to Richard N. Zare on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Corresponding editor: BJ Rao

Communicated by B J RAO.

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Banerjee, S. Ambient ionization mass spectrometry imaging for disease diagnosis: Excitements and challenges. J Biosci 43, 731–738 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12038-018-9785-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12038-018-9785-y

Keywords

  • Biopsy
  • cancer margin
  • DESI-MSI
  • ion images
  • lipids
  • metabolites