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National Research Resource for Imaging Mass Spectrometry

Richard M. Caprioli, Ph.D. (

Center Overview

The National Research Resource for Imaging Mass Spectrometry was founded at the Vanderbilt University Mass Spectrometry Research Center in 2011. The mission of this National Research Resource is to advance the technology of Imaging Mass Spectrometry (IMS), to facilitate the application of this novel imaging modality to problems of biological and clinical significance, and to promote the adoption of these technologies by a larger community of scientists and clinicians. In order to fulfill this mission, the Resource is working toward technological advances and innovations that include next generation hardware, software and methods relevant to direct tissue profiling and imaging using mass spectrometry. This program includes the further development of histology directed mass spectrometric profiling and imaging of tissues, a new ion source for transmission geometry laser illumination of tissues for single cell analysis, high spatial resolution imaging down to one micron lateral resolution, high sensitivity profiling and imaging to measure lower abundance species than is now possible, and the development of bio-computational resources to complement the technological advances and enable IMS to be routinely used by biologists and medical research investigators who are not experts in IMS technology. Technology Research & Development is conducted by an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers, both within the Resource and through collaborative relationships with other universities, research institutes, and private industry.

Impact on Human Health

The clinical tools used to examine tissue specimens for the diagnosis of disease often rely on very limited molecular information. It has been demonstrated that the molecular changes that underlie disease are critical to more accurate and earlier diagnoses. Molecular imaging of tissues by mass spectrometry will be used in combination with classical histological analysis to provide new insights into the biological systems that we study and a better understanding of health and disease at the molecular level, translating to improved patient care.