Simultaneous structural and elemental nano-imaging of human brain tissue†
Examining chemical and structural characteristics of micro-features in complex tissue matrices is essential for understanding biological systems. Advances in multimodal chemical and structural imaging using synchrotron radiation have overcome many issues in correlative imaging, enabling the characterization of distinct microfeatures at nanoscale resolution in ex vivo tissues. We present a nanoscale imaging method that pairs X-ray ptychography and X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM) to simultaneously examine structural features and quantify elemental content of microfeatures in complex ex vivo tissues. We examined the neuropathological microfeatures Lewy bodies, aggregations of superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) and neuromelanin in human post-mortem Parkinson's disease tissue. Although biometals play essential roles in normal neuronal biochemistry, their dyshomeostasis is implicated in Parkinson's disease aetiology. Here we show that Lewy bodies and SOD1 aggregates have distinct elemental fingerprints yet are similar in structure, whilst neuromelanin exhibits different elemental composition and a distinct, disordered structure. The unique approach we describe is applicable to the structural and chemical characterization of a wide range of complex biological tissues at previously unprecedented levels of detail.