Sample preparation of bone tissue for MALDI-MSI for forensic and (pre)clinical applications

Michiel Vandenbosch, Sylvia P. Nauta, Anastasiya Svirkova, Martijn Poeze, Ron M. A. Heeren, Tiffany Porta Siegel, Eva Cuypers, Martina Marchetti-Deschmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the past decades, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) has been applied to a broad range of biological samples, e.g., forensics and preclinical samples. The use of MALDI-MSI for the analysis of bone tissue has been limited due to the insulating properties of the material but more importantly the absence of a proper sample preparation protocol for undecalcified bone tissue. Undecalcified sections are preferred to retain sample integrity as much as possible or to study the tissue-bone bio interface in particular. Here, we optimized the sample preparation protocol of undecalcified bone samples, aimed at both targeted and untargeted applications for forensic and preclinical applications, respectively. Different concentrations of gelatin and carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) were tested as embedding materials. The composition of 20% gelatin and 7.5% CMC showed to support the tissue best while sectioning. Bone tissue has to be sectioned with a tungsten carbide knife in a longitudinal fashion, while the sections need to be supported with double-sided tapes to maintain the morphology of the tissue. The developed sectioning method was shown to be applicable on rat and mouse as well as human bone samples. Targeted (methadone and EDDP) as well as untargeted (unknown lipids) detection was demonstrated. DHB proved to be the most suitable matrix for the detection of methadone and EDDP in positive ion mode. The limit of detection (LOD) is estimated to approximately 50 pg/spot on bone tissue. The protocol was successfully applied to detect the presence of methadone and EDDP in a dosed rat femur and a dosed human clavicle. The best matrices for the untargeted detection of unknown lipids in mouse hind legs in positive ion mode were CHCA and DHB based on the number of tissue-specific peaks and signal-to-noise ratios. The developed and optimized sample preparation method, applicable on animal and human bones, opens the door for future forensic and (pre)clinical investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2683-2694
Number of pages12
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number10
Early online date15 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Animals
  • Bone and Bones/chemistry
  • Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium/chemistry
  • Forensic Medicine/methods
  • Gelatin/chemistry
  • Lipids/analysis
  • Male
  • Microtomy/methods
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization/methods
  • Tissue Embedding/methods

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