Single-Cell Elemental Analysis

Chemical analysis of single cells is of growing interest in biological and clinical research. In contrast to classical bulk measurements, cell-by-cell analysis of cellular genome, proteome and metabolome addresses the cells’ heterogeneity and helps to discover new regulatory pathways. Knowledge of cell-to-cell variation is essential for immunology, neurology and cancer research. Major and trace elements (Fe, K, Na, Se, I, Mn, etc.), though present in very low concentration, regulate many processes, such as growth and energy exchange, and play a major role in biological systems.

Elemental analysis of single cells demands rapid, high sensitivity, multi-parametric detection, which is possible with our inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometer, the icpTOF. The capability to quantify elements is an important strength of icpTOF for studies of biological systems. Beside metalloproteins and free metal ions, many non-metal containing biomolecules, such as peptides, proteins, nucleic acids and amino acids, can be quantified by measuring phosphorus or sulfur, or by specific labeling with elemental tags.