19. September 2022

What is Imaging Mass Cytometry?

Powerfully advanced techniques are required to determine the properties of special cellular subpopulations in their native tissue environment. Mass cytometry is one such technology, allowing the identification of cellular phenotypes with antibody markers for further analysis. Two types of recent imaging methods with mass cytometry are imaging mass cytometry (IMC) and multiplexed ion beam imaging.

IMC builds off the ability of mass cytometry by adding a novel laser ablation instrument that can be applied to biological tissue samples. This expands the potential of mass cytometry and enables innovative imaging capabilities that can be used for many different areas of biomedical research. This blog post will focus specifically on discussing the advantages and applications of IMC in further detail.

Advantages of Imaging Mass Cytometry

IMC augments the analysis power of mass cytometry by enabling the production of images analogous to those of light microscopy. Furthermore, instead of working with single-cell suspensions, IMC can be used with tissue samples to provide data on a diverse cellular phenotypes simultaneously.

Specifically, this technology can stain and image over 40 different markers. More detailed and robust data can be collected by enabling the visualization of cells in their natural tissue microenvironment. This technique possesses the advantage of reducing noise and interference during analysis, creating an ideal contrast between target markers and background data for imaging.

Applications of Imaging Mass Cytometry

Imaging mass cytometry conjugates antibody labels on target proteins in tissue samples to metals, and later ablates the samples. The tissue sample is analyzed by a mass spectrometer, which assesses the metal tags. The data from the mass spectrometer can then be used to visualize each marker in a resulting image. Please see our other blog post, “How Does Imaging Mass Cytometry Work?” for more detailed information and further reading on the step-by-step process of this technology.

The field of histology is profoundly impacted by imaging mass cytometry. Some of the first researchers to apply this technique, as referenced in a 2014 paper published in the journal Nature Methods, used it to study human breast cancer samples. With IMC, the group could visualize and analyze over 30 proteins/markers. The data that arose from this study allowed insight into cell functions and characteristics in tumors.

Since its emergence, this technique has continued to improve in efficiency and expand in purpose. Today, the applications of IMC go beyond cancer and into reserach areas like autoimmune disorders, personalized medicine, and disease therapeutics.

Imaging Mass Cytometry Analysis With TissueGnostics 

TissueGnostics (TG) is a leader in tissue cytometry solutions and provides high-quality slide scanners, as well as image analysis workflows, which allows users to analyse a high number of markers. StrataQuest, TG’s contextual image analysis solution, is able to deal with datasets from IMC as well as from other multiplexing platforms. 

Further details about our various products and services can also be found on our website. And if you are interested in learning more about the analysis of IMC data sets, contact a member of the TissueGnostics team.


• https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2019.02657/full

Are you also interested in Understanding the Tumour Immune Microenvironment?

or in How to Carry Out Complex Characterization of the Tissue Microenvironment?


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