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Mass spectrometry imaging

New applications for mass spectrometry

Applying our knowledge of MSI imaging techniques to support healthcare and life sciences industries

We are constantly improving our resolution and broadening the applications for MSI. With an experienced team of researchers, we can offer novel and unique capabilities and work with customers to help them solve their problems.

Skin and hair health

Label-free visualisation of formulations and their penetration into dermal tissue and hair structure

NPL offers a new generation of mass spectrometry imaging tools which simultaneously provide imaging, detection and identification of multiple endogenous molecular species within skin tissue and hair sections. After topical application of a formulation or hair treatment with active components, label-free mass spectrometry imaging enables visualisation of the active ingredients penetration into the sample. In the case of skin tissue samples, identification of the penetration pathway, such as follicular or transcellular, is possible. We offer chemical characterisation of formulations, including co-localisation of the ingredients, demixing and crystallisation.  

We offer an independent analysis by experts, who can support product development. Our scientists are experienced in handling both excised mammalian skin and non-animal models such as living skin equivalents.

Supporting medical device development

Reducing failures, saving costs and meeting regulatory requirements

The medical device industry needs to understand root causes of device failure, device/host interactions and origins of a device surface contaminations in order to improve manufacturing processes and reliability, and meet the quality control and regulatory requirements.

Contamination and layer composition can critically affect the safety and performance of a medical devices such as, for example, catheters treated with antibacterial coatings or orthopaedic implants. If delamination, cracking and spalling of the antibacterial coating occurs, the device will inevitably be less effective or unusable. In the case of implants, their interaction with surrounding tissue can be critical to their long term viability and functionality. Understanding the host response to an implanted device, and vice-versa, can aid in both product development and in meeting regulations for the clinical application of medical devices. Surface contamination often originating from the manufacturing environment can lead to costly batch failures, and therefore rapid analysis of surface contamination of production line devices is needed to support quality control requirements.

NPL has the in-house expertise and facilities to provide a one-stop-service of mass spectrometry imaging to respond and address the poor performance and failures of the medical devices. Mass spectrometry imaging delivers chemical images (2D or 3D), is a label-free measurement at ppm sensitivities, and can embrace micro and nano scale. Using mass spectrometry instrumentation, a broad range of medical device materials can be interrogated from contact lenses to bone implants. It can also offer a rapid ambient molecular detection from highly topographic or hydrated surfaces. 

Tissue imaging

Enhancing data understanding though data-driven analytics

With links increasingly being established between molecular markers and disease states there is a significant interest in techniques for imaging unlabelled molecules directly in tissue. Localised molecular information provides the opportunity to directly investigate the link between tissue structure and function, and MSI has been established as a powerful technique for achieving this. NiCE MSI offers services for industry and academia in a range of techniques for mass spectrometry imaging of small and large molecules, at resolutions suitable for probing sub-cellular, cellular and whole tissue features.

As part of our Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge Programme, we have used mass spectrometry imaging methods to image the metabolic effects of a range of therapeutic interventions and to evaluate the relevance of tumour models in case of human cancers. Our goal is to establish the broader metabolic wiring of pre-clinical models and better determine the plasticity of the tumour metabolism pre-clinically. Importantly our strategy will allow us to link this (spatially) to an underlying genotype. Ultimately we seek to uncover site specific metabolic profiles and compare the differences in tumours in primary and secondary sites.

Computational analysis tools for large multi-modal data

Enhancing data understanding though data-driven analytics

NPL houses a broad range of state of the art instruments, ideal for addressing the measurement challenges for global organisations. Our diverse range of surface and nano-analysis techniques often produce large, heterogeneous and complex multi-modal data. The computational capabilities we have developed allow the visualisation and analysis of these data, enhancing the understanding of particular problems or measurements. A wide range of machine learning, statistical, data-driven and exploratory data analysis methods enable us to extract all key information from these multiple data modalities.

Our computational analytical tools include; segmentation and feature extraction, linking the spatial and spectral domains, feature correlation and deep learning, multivariate analysis of hyper-spectral data and unsupervised dimensionality reduction.

Our computational expertise are readily transferable to data beyond the scope of NPL’s instrumentation and can be applied to general problems surrounding large scale data and analysis. Through measurement and consultancy services we can provide the analysis and visualisation of data, or provide software, training and support for companies to mine their own data. By establishing partnerships we can provide bespoke analytical work-flows and processing pipelines to suit specific data problems and analytical needs.

Drug Discovery

Identify the most promising drug candidates as early and efficiently as possible

Many prospective drugs fail in the latter stages of the drug development pipeline, at significant financial cost to the company. Reasons can vary but are usually related to inefficient targeting of the drug or unexpected side effects, amongst others. Using high resolution mass spectrometry imaging at the single cell level and below, many of these issues could be observed and understood far earlier in the development pipeline, where they could be addressed or the pipeline abandoned at much lower cost. 

For example, mass spectrometry can provide high resolution, label-free imaging of drug and its metabolites distribution within cells or tissues, a powerful technique to help you make more quantitative decisions about possible drug candidates. We have unparalleled in-house expertise to identify the correct approach for a particular drug, and a complete range of techniques to provide powerful insight into the molecular and atomic world.

Pharmaceutical companies, life science start-ups and contract research organisations can benefit from our knowledge, experience and state-of-the-art instrumentation as they seek to optimise their candidate drug discovery process.

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Our research and measurement solutions support innovation and product development. We work with companies to deliver business advantage and commercial success.
Contact our Customer Services team on +44 20 8943 7070