An Innovative 3D View of Infection Response
An innovative 3D view of the infection response of the body. This leads to the possibility of identifying new proteins that are involved in this mechanism and further lead to the discovery of new biomarkers and therapeutic agents in infectious diseases.
A team of interdisciplinary researchers from the Vanderbilt University, in the United States have managed to combine MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) with mass spectrometry in order to visualize the inflammatory response in laboratory mice. This new technique was published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe and an image of it was featured on its cover. The team suggests that the novel technique offers the opportunity to discover new proteins that weren’t previously considered to be part of the inflammatory response.
One of the senior authors of the study, Eric Skaar, Ph.D., said that the development of the novel technique was made possible by the unique resources that the Vanderbilt University has offered. “The studies in this paper couldn’t have happened at any other university, because the resources simply don’t exist at most schools”, he said.
These unique resources include the animal imaging technologies that were made available through the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science (VUIIS) and through the mass spectrometry technologies made available through the Mass Spectrometry Research Center (MSRC). Both the director of VUIIS, John Gore, and the director of MSRC, Richard Caprioli, are senior authors of the published paper.
Skaar noted that a major influence on his team was the fact that these technologies were available for him and his research group. Skaar and his research group study infectious diseases. Him and his team wanted to create a complete, 3D image of the animal and the infection response that was taking place, whilst also being able to identify the proteins that are being produced during the process. The magnetic resonance imaging technique provided the detailed anatomical images while the mass spectrometry technique provided a direct measurement of proteins, lipids and other molecules and at the same time providing an accurate mapping of their distribution in the body.
Researchers infected laboratory mice with Staphylococcus aureus, which is a frequently encountered bacteria that causes several diseases in humans. These laboratory mice were infected at the Cairo University, in Egypt, and later sent to the VUIIS, where the mice were subjected to MRI and mass spectrometry studies. The research team was helped by Kevin Wilson. He is the one that developed the algorithms that resulted in the final 3D version of the inflammatory response.
The combination of these two technologies allows researchers to view a single, combined, image of the infected animal, thus being able to identify the proteins that are involved, investigate their role and response, and find the exact location of the infected tissue. “Part of the strength of this work is not where the research is now, but where it allows us to go from here”, said Skaar.
Skaar said that his research team is planning on identifying which proteins are important during the “battle” between bacteria and the immune system. Another goal of the research team is to discover new biomarkers that will lead to the improvement of diagnostic techniques and possibly offer new targets for therapeutic intervention. He also added that these technologies offered by the VUIIS and MSRC will be a useful asset for any researcher interested in the imaging of the inflammatory response. The inflammatory response takes up an important part in cancer and autoimmune diseases, along with infectious diseases.
“Imaging mass spectrometry is extremely valuable for the discovery process because it does not require a target-specific reagent such as an antibody”, said Caprioli, adding that investigators do not need to have exact knowledge of what they’re looking for.