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Correlated cryo-SEM and CryoNanoSIMS imaging of biological tissue: Addressing fundamentally important research questions with a new technology

The development of nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) has revolutionized the study of biological tissues by enabling, e.g., the visualization and quantification of metabolic processes at subcellular length scales. However, the associated sample preparation methods all result in some degree of tissue morphology distortion and loss of soluble compounds. To overcome these limitations an entirely cryogenic sample preparation and imaging workflow is required. This talk will present the development of a CryoNanoSIMS instrument that can perform isotope imaging of both positive and negative secondary ions from flat block-face surfaces of vitrified biological tissues with a mass- and image resolution comparable to that of a conventional NanoSIMS. 

With a cryo-workflow that includes vitrification by high pressure freezing, cryo-planing of the sample surface, and cryo-SEM imaging, the CryoNanoSIMS enables correlative ultrastructure and isotopic or elemental imaging of biological tissues in their most pristine post-mortem state. This opens new horizons in the study of fundamental processes at the tissue- and (sub)cellular level. Examples will be shown and potential future applications in the life-sciences discussed.