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Adam Taylor

on 30 June 2017

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Transcript of Zoom

Google Earth

Google Earth
Secondary ion
mass spectrometry
uses an ion beam of charged atoms
to map the chemistry in much more detail

0.1 mm
Google Earth
0.02 mm
Google Earth equivalent: street

Pinch and zoom to explore.
Or tap on the right and left of the screen
to move forward and back.

NPL is leading a Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge project to map cancer in unprecedented detail.

Using mass spectrometry imaging techniques that can map the position of hundreds of different chemical species at the same time, our goal is to reveal how tumours survive and why they keep growing. This could lead to the development of new and better ways to diagnose and treat cancer.

This interactive app shows the power of the imaging techniques used in the project, capturing everything from a whole human body, through a sample of a colorectal tumour, down to just a single cell.


This whole image is just 0.35 mm across,
smaller than a grain
of salt

1 mm
In MALDI mass spectrometry imaging a laser beam is fired at each pixel
Each pixel is 0.045 mm across, about half the width of a human hair
Molecules removed by the laser are weighed using a mass spectrometer to produce a mass spectrum – a 'chemical signature'
Pixels with the same colour have similar chemical signatures
In this image, tumour tissue is associated with the green areas
Google Earth
This is an image of cancerous tissue
from a human colon, analysed by
MALDI mass spectrometry imaging
If we zoom in, the pixels of the MALDI mass spectrometry image are too large to identify smaller features.

While MALDI mass spectrometry imaging is fast, and can image intact molecules, we need another technique with a higher spatial resolution.
Secondary ion mass spectrometry can be used to image even smaller features. Here we can look inside a single cell.

A fragment of a medicine (green) is seen surrounding the cell nucleus (red).

This whole image is 0.04 mm across, over 44,000 times smaller than the height of the human body we have zoomed in on.

Zoom back out to see how far we've come!
Full transcript