NCMSI - MSI Assays, Drug Discovery and Development


As a multimodal imaging technology that enables simultaneous and label-free quantitative analysis of drugs and metabolites across multiple tissue types, MALDI-MSI is ideally suited for the study of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME). MALDI-MSI is broadly applicable in almost all areas of ADME research and is widely used to map the distributions of both endogenous and exogenous compounds in tissue samples.

Safety Toxicology

Standard histological staining or QWBA (quantitaive whole body autoradiography) protocols may be incapable of supporting meaningful diagnosis or tissue classification. MALDI-MSI provides an additional option for tissue classification at the molecular level and could thus be very useful to pathologists as an alternative or complement to histology for the diagnosis and characterization of toxicological findings.

Drug Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) Permeability

The major advantage of MALDI-MSI over radiolabeled imaging methods such as autoradiography and PET (positron-emission tomography) is that the technique can be used to simultaneously detect the parent drug and its metabolites. In addition, MALDI-MSI can provide detailed information about the drug’ s distribution in specific regions or structures of the brain, along with data on changes in neurochemical and toxicological factors associated with drug administration.


Since most brain processes involve multiple neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, it is important to have the ability to image and quantify multiple neurochemicals simultaneously in the same analysis. The NCMSI resource recently published a paper in the high-impact journal Neuron reporting a novel MALDI-MSI strategy for simultaneously imaging, identifying and quantitating the absolute concentrations of multiple neurotransmitters and neurotransmitter precursors in situ in animal model brain tissue sections.

Oncology and Pathology

One of the first applications of the MALDI-MSI technology was in cancer biology. Many cancers form solid tumors that can be biopsied and/or resected during surgery, providing a ready source of tissue for analysis.