Chemical Mapping

The Chemical Mapping Section examines the differential spatial and temporal distribution of metals in biological samples in order to better understand the mechanism by which environmental exposures contribute to disease etiology. Elemental imaging utilizes a combination of analytical chemistry, microscopy, and data visualization to to depict the spatial distribution of chemicals in environmental and biological samples. This approach has the advantage of visualizing cell- and tissue-specific uptake and distribution of chemicals at the micro scale, as opposed to traditional methods that generally provide one averaged concentration for a sample. Imaging of isotope-specific tracers and fluorescent sensors can be employed to probe the mechanisms of metal transport (e.g. between the mother and fetus across the placenta, or across the blood-brain barrier), as well as in many diseases where metals are suspected to play a significant role.

Analytical Methods:

Our Laboratory uses the following techniques to study the distribution of lead, manganese, zinc, iron and other biologically important elements and toxic metals in samples including teeth, bone, brain, placenta, hair samples and many other tissue types.

  • Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS)
  • Particle-induced X-ray emission spectroscopy (PIXE)
  • Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS)

Key Researchers:

Manish Arora, BDS, MPH, PhD

Christine Austin, PhD

Megan Niedzwiecki, PhD