Elemental distribution and sample integrity comparison of freeze-dried and frozen-hydrated biological tissue samples with nuclear microprobe

Vavpetič P, Vogel-Mikuš K, Jeromel L, Potočnik Ogrinc N, Pongrac P, Drobne D, Pipan Tkalec Ž, Novak S, Kos M, Koren Š, Regvar M, Pelicon P
[ pdf ] [ site ] Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms, 2015

The analysis of biological samples in frozen-hydrated state with micro-PIXE technique at Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI) nuclear microprobe has matured to a point that enables us to measure and examine frozen tissue samples routinely as a standard research method.

Cryotome-cut slice of frozen-hydrated biological sample is mounted between two thin foils and positioned on the sample holder. The temperature of the cold stage in the measuring chamber is kept below 130 K throughout the insertion of the samples and the proton beam exposure. Matrix composition of frozen-hydrated tissue is consisted mostly of ice. Sample deterioration during proton beam exposure is monitored during the experiment, as both Elastic Backscattering Spectrometry (EBS) and Scanning Transmission Ion Microscopy (STIM) in on–off axis geometry are recorded together with the events in two PIXE detectors and backscattered ions from the chopper in a single list-mode file.

The aim of this experiment was to determine differences and similarities between two kinds of biological sample preparation techniques for micro-PIXE analysis, namely freeze-drying and frozen-hydrated sample preparation in order to evaluate the improvements in the elemental localisation of the latter technique if any.

In the presented work, a standard micro-PIXE configuration for tissue mapping at JSI was used with five detection systems operating in parallel, with proton beam cross section of 1.0 × 1.0 μm2 and a beam current of 100 pA. The comparison of the resulting elemental distributions measured at the biological tissue prepared in the frozen-hydrated and in the freeze-dried state revealed differences in elemental distribution of particular elements at the cellular level due to the morphology alteration in particular tissue compartments induced either by water removal in the lyophilisation process or by unsatisfactory preparation of samples for cutting and mounting during the shock-freezing phase of sample preparation.