Issue 33, 2020

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.

Graphical abstract: Simultaneous structural and elemental nano-imaging of human brain tissue

Supplementary files

Article information

Article type
Edge Article
19 May 2020
06 Aug 2020
First published
10 Aug 2020
This article is Open Access

All publication charges for this article have been paid for by the Royal Society of Chemistry
Creative Commons BY license

Chem. Sci., 2020,11, 8919-8927

Simultaneous structural and elemental nano-imaging of human brain tissue

S. Genoud, M. W. M. Jones, B. G. Trist, J. Deng, S. Chen, D. J. Hare and K. L. Double, Chem. Sci., 2020, 11, 8919 DOI: 10.1039/D0SC02844D

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