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Molecular imaging researchers share ideas

Tuesday 05 November 2013

Over 100 members of the British Mass Spectrometry Society met at Sheffield Hallam University last week, to discuss a new technique which is helping scientists gather more information about criminals at crime scenes, and is helping doctors to identify cancerous cells in patients.

Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation (MALDI) imaging is a scientific technique which allows scientists to analyse the behaviour of molecules on surfaces. The technique is being used at scenes of crime through fingermark analysis, which researchers from the Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam have led the way on.

Leading MALDI researchers and practitioners from all over the world met at the University to share their findings and develop their research. The event was organised by Malcolm Clench, professor of mass spectrometry at Sheffield Hallam.

Professor Clench said, 'Mass spectrometry is a relatively new discipline in terms of research, but it is now being rolled out into many applications in the real world.

'For example, tissue biopsies are now being taken in-surgery, and taken to the mass spectrometer to see if they're cancerous or benign. That information is then immediately fed back to the surgeon, leading to much higher success rates.

'The use of MALDI imaging to analyse fingermarks at crime scenes has been pioneered here at Sheffield Hallam. But it also has many important uses, including drug absorption in humans, agri-chemical distribution in plants, and the identification of cancerous cells.'

The event included talks by Sheffield Hallam PhD students, along with key UK and international speakers from industry and academia, including representatives from pharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.

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