Ambient ionization imaging mass spectrometry is uniquely suited for detailed spatially resolved chemical characterization of biological samples in their native environment. However, the spatial resolution attainable using existing approaches is limited by the ion transfer efficiency from the ionization region into the mass spectrometer. Here, we present a first study of ambient imaging of biological samples using nanospray desorption ionization (nano-DESI). Nano-DESI is a new ambient pressure ionization technique that uses minute amounts of solvent confined between two capillaries comprising the nano-DESI probe and the solid analyte for controlled desorption of molecules present on the substrate followed by ionization through self-aspirating nanospray. We demonstrate highly sensitive spatially resolved analysis of tissue samples without sample preparation. Our first proof-of-principle experiments indicate the potential of nano-DESI for ambient imaging with a spatial resolution of better than 12 μm. The significant improvement of the spatial resolution offered by nano-DESI imaging combined with high detection efficiency will enable new imaging mass spectrometry applications in clinical diagnostics, drug discovery, molecular biology, and biochemistry.
© 2011 American Chemical Society