Mass spectrometry (MS) imaging suffers from multiple drawbacks, hence limiting its explorative potential to functionally characterize tissues at the metabolic level, and generate metabolomic variables for the discovery of novel physiological biomarkers. These difficulties come from both i) the high background produced by MALDI-ToF MS in ion masses lower than 500 Da, and ii) oversized data files which are not adapted for multivariate statistics workflows.
A new workflow is proposed here by three complementary partners. It is based on i) the use of high-surface-area porous silicon nanostructures (NIMS) to minimize MS background for metabolite masses lower than 500 Da, and ii) the use of a prior selected transect from parallel optical imaging of tissue sections to reduce the size of data files, but not their informative content.
Extension to NIMS-compatible porous microfluidic devices with two circulation flows will be done to get in situ NIMS sample preparation. Biological models related to the coral-microorganisms symbiosis will validate the MS imaging workflow, further advancing the ecologically important, recently developed coral-on-chip model with breakthrough in situ metabolites analyses tools.