Technologies, Inc. and University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have teamed
up to establish a unique research facility here to study trace metals and other
elements in tissue, and their effects on health.
The UTS Elemental Bio-Imaging Facility opened on June 27 to develop new methods
of imaging small amounts of metals, trace elements and other elements (essentially
the entire periodic table) in tissues, in the search for new ways to diagnose
certain serious diseases and to understand drug actions and drug side effects.
This new field of study is called “metallomics.”
“The basic technology, laser ablation – ICPMS [inductively coupled
plasma mass spectrometry] has been used in analytical laboratories for quite
some time for forensic applications and to study the composition of rocks,”
said Rudolf Grimm, Ph.D., Agilent director, LC/MS Market Development.
novel about this effort is using the technology in new ways to study how iron
or zinc and their particular isotopes, for example, affect the condition of
brain or heart tissue. I’ve been imagining the potential of this approach
for about four years, and now we have the right collaborator to investigate
The toxic effects of large doses of metal are well known, but little is understood
about trace amounts.
“These techniques can probe the mechanism, progression and treatment
of many disorders such as heart disease and osteoarthritis, and also detect
the spread of cancer, such as melanoma in lymph nodes,” said Dr.
Doble, senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Forensic Science,
UTS Faculty of Science.
UTS is providing the facility and scientific staff to perform the research.
Its researchers have developed a new and novel imaging technique that accurately
maps deposits of trace metals in biological tissues and converts them into 2D
visual images. This enables the study of metals and their interactions with
proteins in the body.
Agilent is providing:
- 7500 Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometers (ICP-MS);
- 6500-Series triple quadrupole LC/MS;
- funding for project work;
- scholarships for postgraduate students to pursue research in this area;
- technical consulting; and
- a grant to develop imaging technology.
Dr. Doble explained how some of the technology is being harnessed:
the latest ICP-MS, researchers place a slice of human tissue on a plate, pop
it into a sample chamber and zap it with a laser. The tissue sample is vaporized
and swept to a plasma at 80000K. This breaks the sample into its elemental components,
giving a direct chemical analysis of the entire sample that can be seen as an
image rather than as a series of numbers.
“Direct sampling of biopsy material, for example, reduces the errors
that creep in when ordinary sampling techniques are used,” Dr.
“The new techniques have the potential to probe the mechanism, progression
and treatment of many diseases.”
Collaboration between Agilent and UTS goes back at least five years, and both
organizations say this new facility is a milestone in the fight against critical