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The MagLab is funded by the National Science Foundation and the State of Florida.

Ultrahigh Performance Molecular Imaging using the 21T ICR Magnet

Published May 22, 2020

Red: Phosphatidylcholine O-36:2 Green: Sphingomyelin 40:1 Blue: Phosphatidylcholine 40:6
Red: Phosphatidylcholine O-36:2 Green: Sphingomyelin 40:1 Blue: Phosphatidylcholine 40:6

Don Smith

Combining spatial imaging technology with ultrahigh performance FT-ICR mass spectrometry provides users with the unique ability to create tissue images of identified biomolecules. This technology will be applied to understand human health and disease.

What did scientists discover?

The MagLab has partnered with MagLab users from the Netherlands to develop molecular imaging featuring ultrahigh mass resolution and mass accuracy, which is demonstrated here on a rat brain tissue slice.

Why is this important?

Mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) is an emerging technology with applications in human health and disease, including cancer, neurodegeneration, and infection. MSI provides detailed pictures of tissue slices showing the specific locations of particular, selected biomolecules. Identification of the biomolecules is often difficult due to limitations on mass spectral resolving power and mass measurement accuracy.

The MagLab's 21T ICR magnet provides the highest resolving power and most accurate mass molecular imaging achieved to date. Molecules with extremely small mass differences (as small as 1.79mDa, equal to the mass of only three electrons) can be separated in an image for the first time, revealing quite different distributions in the rat brain for these two molecules. More than 1300 lipids were imaged in these experiments. The figure shows the spatial distributions in the brain of three different lipids.

Who did the research?

Andrew P. Bowman1, Greg T. Blakney2, Christopher L. Hendrickson2, Shane R. Ellis1, Ron M. A. Heeren1, Donald F. Smith2

1M4I Institute, Maastricht University, Maastricht 6629ER, NL; 2National MagLab, FSU, Tallahassee, Florida

Why did they need the MagLab?

The MagLab’s 21 tesla (T) Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) mass spectrometer provides uniquely high mass resolving power and mass accuracy needed to build these images.

Details for scientists


This research was funded by the following grants: G.S. Boebinger (NSF DMR-1157490, NSF DMR-1644779)

For more information, contact Christopher Hendrickson.

Last modified on 26 December 2022