Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) is a powerful tool for
investigating the spatial distribution of proteins and small molecules within biological specimen. This technique combines
the potential of MALDI-ToF mass spectrometry with the ability to scan series of pixels across the surface of tissues,
which generates multiplex space-correlated mass spectra. Numerical processing of the data allows visualization of specific
molecular species and their correlation with histological image of the tissue. Hence, IMS is a multiplex untargeted analysis
that enables characterization of tissue regions based on their endogenous biomolecular content. The major advantage
of this technique is its potential to define tissue regions based on their molecular profiles independently of their histological
and morphological characteristics given by traditional tools. IMS can detect potential cancer foci within histologically
normal tissue, reveal intra-tumor heterogeneity or altered protein expression at tumor/normal tissue interface zones. IMS
is an emerging technology that could fill gaps in the knowledge of spatial nature of a disease allowing better understanding
of connections between structure and molecular processes.
Keywords: MALDI-ToF mass spectrometry, molecular imaging, molecular histopathology, protein distribution, proteomics.
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