MALDI Imaging Lab - An interdisciplinary core facility for the acquisition and analysis of imaging mass spectrometry data

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Researcher: Janina Oetjen, Lena Hauberg-Lotte, Theodore Alexandrov, Peter Maaß
Project funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Project sponsor: DFG
Partner: SCiLS GmbH, Bremen; Islet Biology Laboratory, Universität Bremen
Duration: 01.07.2011 - 2016

The MALDI Imaging Lab, or MIL, is a core facility and research facility specialising in the acquisition of imaging mass spectrometric data.

Matrix Assisted Laser Desoption and Ionisation (MALDI) Imaging Mass Spectrometry (MALDI Imaging MS) is based on the measurement of individual, spatially resolved MALDI mass spectra. These are recorded in a grid pattern over a biological tissue section or other suitable sample. The method can be applied to diverse biologically and medically relevant questions and is often used to detect disease- or tissue-specific biomarkers.

The MIL was founded in 2011 and was a national core facility funded by the German Research Foundation from 2013 to 2016. It houses an autoflex speedTM MALDI mass spectrometer from Bruker Daltonik. Both uni-internal and external interested customers can have their samples analysed. The services offered include sample preparation, measurement, possible post-treatments such as staining and microscopy, as well as computer-assisted evaluation of the data. A large number of different samples of human as well as animal and plant origin have been measured so far in order to investigate biological and medical questions.

Due to the complexity and size of the data files, data evaluation in the field of MALDI imaging MS plays an important role. The company SCiLS GmbH, which develops and distributes software for the analysis of MALDI imaging data, has dedicated itself to this topic. The MIL has an advisory function in the software development.

For ZeTeM, it has developed a protocol for the generation of three-dimensional MALDI imaging MS data sets that is compatible with sample measurement by magnetic resonance tomography. This was successfully modified and applied to the measurement of neuropeptides in ant brains. The 3D overlay of these data with the micro-CT dataset of an ant's head allowed for the first time an unprecedented way of imaging these neurotransmitters in an extremely small organism. Further 3D MALDI imaging MS datasets (mouse kidney, mouse pancreas, human neck-head tumour, time series of interacting microorganisms, human colorectal adenocarcinoma) were acquired, the data published and made available for the development of further data analysis methods. Currently, the MIL is working on a project on the use of MALDI imaging in histopathological cancer diagnostics to develop standardised preparation methods, which are essential for later routine use.

In addition, together with the Center for Biomolecular Interactions of Department 2 at University of Bremen, the MIL is researching the effect and localisation of a new drug candidate for the treatment of diabetes.