Mass spectrometry imaging: a novel technology in rheumatology

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2017 Jan;13(1):52-63. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2016.184. Epub 2016 Nov 24.


Mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) is used to determine the relative abundance and spatial distribution of biomolecules such as peptides, proteins, lipids and other organic compounds in tissue sections by their molecular masses. This technique provides a sensitive and label-free approach for high-resolution imaging, and is currently used in an increasing number of biomedical applications such as biomarker discovery, tissue classification and drug monitoring. Owing to technological advances in the past 5 years in diverse MSI strategies, this technology is expected to become a standard tool in clinical practice and provides information complementary to that obtained using existing methods. Given that MSI is able to extract mass-spectral signatures from pathological tissue samples, this technique provides a novel platform to study joint-related tissues affected by rheumatic diseases. In rheumatology, MSI has been performed on articular cartilage, synovium and bone to increase the understanding of articular destruction and to characterize diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. In this Review, we provide an overview of MSI technology and of the studies in which joint tissues have been analysed by use of this methodology. This approach might increase knowledge of rheumatic pathologies and ultimately prompt the development of targeted strategies for their management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone and Bones / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Cartilage, Articular / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism
  • Chondrogenesis
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Mass Spectrometry* / methods
  • Rheumatic Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Rheumatic Diseases / metabolism*
  • Rheumatology / methods*
  • Synovial Membrane / diagnostic imaging*
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism