iKnife being tested on liver

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Professor Zoltan Takats and his research group develop innovative mass spectrometry based diagnostic techniques that can be applied to a wide range of areas from microbial identification to cancer diagnostics. The multi-disciplinary research group draws expertise from a range of areas and comprises clinical research fellows, post-doctoral researchers, research nurses, biomedical scientists and technicians.  

Why it is important

Diagnostics is critical to a wide range of sectors from agriculture to the food industry and healthcare. At present many of the techniques available are slow, time-consuming and can have poor accuracy. To overcome these obstacles Professor Takats and his team are working on the development of novel mass spectrometry-based diagnostic tools.  

Diagnostic techniques we are developing 

  • Rapid Evaporative Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (REIMS)
    Here, a sample is heated and the vapour generated is channelled through to a mass spectrometer for analysis. Due to the nature of the method a high proportion of the metabolites observed are lipids and their characteristic fingerprint pattern is often indicative of certain infections or disease states. The data can also be interrogated to identify specific metabolic information such as the production of microbial virulence factors.  
  • Desorption Electrospray Ionisation Mass Spectrometry Imaging (DESI-MSI) 
    Desorption Electrospray Ionization (DESI) mass spectrometry imaging (MSI), an ambient ionization technique developed in 2004, allows you to analyse and image samples under ambient conditions with minimal sample pre-treatment. DESI-MSI has been extensively used by our group for a range of purposes including food, infection and cancer research. Much of our work as focussed on cancer tissue analysis, in particular in ovarian, breast and colorectal cancers. The biochemical information uncovered by DESI-MSI provides a potentially faster diagnostic tool. Our DESI-MSI research provides novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets that may be used for cancer detection and treatment.