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Single-Cell Analysis

Fast and Simultaneous Multi-Element Detection for Single-Cell Analysis


Single-Cell Analysis

Chemical analysis of single cells is of growing interest in biological and clinical research. 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.

The rapid development of sp-ICP-MS has simultaneously opened new doors for single-cell analysis by ICP-MS. Indeed, while during traditional bulk measurements crucial information gets lost by averaging signals from individual cells together, single-cell measurements retain information regarding the cell heterogeneity within the cell population and cell-to-cell variations, and are therefore extremely valuable to gain new insights into intracellular biochemistry and cell-environment interactions.

In single-cell (sc) ICP-MS, similarly as in sp-ICP-MS, cells are transported in droplets generated by conventional nebulization and introduced into the plasma, where they are vaporized, atomized and ionized. Each cell then produces an ion cloud which is detected as an individual spike. The magnitude of the observed spikes can be directly correlated to the mass of analyte contained in the cell and can further be quantified using adequate calibration. The frequency of the recorded events is proportional to the cell number concentration.

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.


  • Fast and Simultaneous Multi-Element Detection for Single-Cell Analysis using the icpTOF S2

    • All the elements. All the time. The icpTOF always records complete mass spectra for each cell, allowing the monitoring of cell-to-cell variance.
    • Highest available sensitivity with the icpTOF S2.
    • Maximum time resolution with the icpTOF S2, which records a complete mass spectrum every 12 µs making it the optimum detector for fast transient signals from cells.


    Learn More About the icpTOF S2

    Example of a recorded signal for a single Wickerhamomyces anomalus yeast cell. Data were acquired with an integration time of 120 µs.

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