Analytical Chemistry 2022 February 8 [Link]

Oana M Voloaca, Malcolm R Clench, Gunda Koellensperger, Laura M Cole, Sarah L Haywood-Small, Sarah Theiner


This is the first report of the use of laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-TOFMS) to analyze human malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) samples at the cellular level. MPM is an aggressive, incurable cancer associated with asbestos exposure, with a long latency and poor overall survival. Following careful optimization of the laser fluence, the simultaneous ablation of soft biological tissue and hard mineral fibers was possible, allowing the spatial detection of elements such as Si, Mg, Ca, and Fe, which are also present in the glass substrate. A low-dispersion LA setup was employed, which provided the high spatial resolution necessary to identify the asbestos fibers and fiber fragments in the tissue and to characterize the metallome at the cellular level (a pixel size of 2 μm), with a high speed (at 250 Hz). The multielement LA-ICP-TOFMS imaging approach enabled (i) the detection of asbestos fibers/mineral impurities within the MPM tissue samples of patients, (ii) the visualization of the tissue structure with the endogenous elemental pattern at high spatial resolution, and (iii) obtaining insights into the metallome of MPM patients with different pathologies in a single analysis run. Asbestos and other mineral fibers were detected in the lung and pleura tissue of MPM patients, respectively, based on their multielement pattern (Si, Mg, Ca, Fe, and Sr). Interestingly, strontium was detected in asbestos fibers, suggesting a link between this potential toxic element and MPM pathogenesis. Furthermore, monitoring the metallome around the talc deposit regions (characterized by elevated levels of Al, Mg, and Si) revealed significant tissue damage and inflammation caused by talc pleurodesis. LA-ICP-TOFMS results correlated to Perls’ Prussian blue and histological staining of the corresponding serial sections. Ultimately, the ultra-high-speed and high-spatial-resolution capabilities of this novel LA-ICP-TOFMS setup may become an important clinical tool for simultaneous asbestos detection, metallome monitoring, and biomarker identification.