Research is under way as to the possibility of using high-precision isotopic analysis of metals in a biomedical context. The goal is to develop methods for medical diagnosis on the basis of isotopic analysis of mineral elements in biofluids, for diseases that can otherwise only be established at a later stage or via a more invasive method (e.g., a biopsy) and/or for prognosis purposes. Whilst this work is in a very early stage, it is known that various diseases have an influence on the uptake, metabolism and/or excretion of essential mineral elements and thus, can cause a difference in their isotopic composition in biofluids.
“In vivo Raman spectroscopy of skin” is Paul Pudney’s topic. The skin is a most important part of our bodies. There is great interest in studying it to help understand the many skin diseases we are prone to, including cancer, to develop skin care products and, increasingly, as an alternative route to administer pharmaceuticals instead of through the gut. Raman spectroscopy is an excellent tool to study these, and has particular advantages in its ability to do so in vivo.
Christian Schröder tells us about “Mössbauer spectroscopy in astrobiology”. Iron is abundant in the Earth’s crust, as well as on Mars and is likely to be so also on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Iron is important for life and may have played a role in the origin of life as an energy source and by providing mineral surfaces as a template for surface metabolism. Iron continues to be essential for almost all organisms as the functional centre of many proteins and enzymes. Mössbauer spectroscopy is a powerful tool to study iron-bearing solid substances and as such has applications in the search for life in other parts of our Solar System.
Sampling on important works of art is not possible and this is the main reason why only non-invasive techniques, such as MSI, are becoming increasingly popular to assist with undertaking conservation decisions.
The “Application of Raman and photoluminescence spectroscopy for identification of uranium minerals in the environment” is described by Eric Faulques, Florian Massuyeau, Nataliya Kalashnyk and Dale Perry. Uranium forms a large number of compounds and complexes, and these are most helpful in the study of uranium, its chemistry and transport in the environment. Raman and photoluminescence spectroscopy provide complementary information and are powerful tools for direct speciation of uranium and identification of natural uranyl minerals relevant to the environment.
Yvonne Fors, Håkan Grudd, Anders Rindby and Lennart Bornmalm tell us about “X-ray fluorescence for cultural heritage: scanning biochemical fingerprints in archaeological shipwrecks”. Two outstanding examples of the preservation of wood are the warships Vasa, in Stockholm and the Mary Rose in Portsmouth and this article looks at the role XRF has played in the preservation of the wood of both ships.
“Optical spectroscopy in therapy response monitoring: an awakening giant” by Arja Kullaa, Surya Singh, Jopi Mikkonen and Arto Koistinen looks at the important advances made by optical spectroscopy techniques, such as diffuse optical spectroscopic imaging (DOSI), Raman, diffuse reflectance and fluorescence spectroscopy, in changing how cancer is managed in patients. The ability to repeatedly monitor tumour dynamics to see how effective a particular treatment has been has enormous potential for us all.
The authors tell us about “Two dimensional elemental mapping by laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy”. LIBS seems to be finding increasing applications and to be receiving interest by the instrument manufacturers at present. The article provides an introduction to the technique and goes on to show how it can be used for elemental mapping in materials analysis.
“Rheo-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy: a versatile toolbox to investigate rheological phenomena in complex fluids” is Claudia Schmidt’s topic. Rheology is an important science, and NMR has a number of uses within it. However, challenges remain for the simultaneous measurement of rheological and NMR parameters.
“Elucidating structural and compositional changes in plant tissues and single cells by Raman spectroscopic imaging” is the topic of the next article by Batirtze Prats Mateu, Barbara Stefke, Marie-Theres Hauser and Notburga Gierlinger. Understanding plant cells is important for the best use of plants in traditional and new applications. Raman spectroscopic imaging represents one of the best ways to unravel the molecular structure in the native environment of plant tissues.
The authors describe “Multisensor hyperspectral imaging as a versatile tool for image-based chemical structure determination”. They describe the features of a software package that allows the combined analysis of hyperspectral data from different imaging techniques. This multisensor approach providing complementary information has many advantages.
Robert Bradshaw and Simona Francese tell us about “Matrix–assisted laser desorption ionisation tandem mass spectrometry imaging of small molecules from latent fingermarks“. Especially when looking at small molecules in fingermarks, isobaric species can be a problem and this has the potential to affect the outcome of any court case if not handled appropriately. Tandem mass spectrometry can be used as an alternative to high-resolution MS and ion mobility.
Currently, pollen identification is mostly done under a light microscope. FT-IR spectroscopy of pollen grains provides rapid and simple identification of pollen, with the added benefit of providing environmental information.
Orthogonal spectroscopic techniques for the early developability assessment of therapeutic protein candidates” are described by Patrick Garidel, Anne Karow and Michaela Blech. Due to its cost and time implications, in the early development phase of drug discovery the use of othogonal techniques, based on different physical observables, is important for correct decision-making.
Mid-infrared spectroscopic imaging is a rapidly emerging technique in biomedical research and clinical diagnostics that takes advantage of the unique molecular fingerprint of cells, tissue and biofluids to provide a rich biochemical image without the need for staining. Spectroscopic analysis allows for the objective classification of biological material at a molecular level.1 This “label free” molecular imaging technique has been applied to histology, cytology, surgical pathology, microbiology and stem cell research, and can be used to detect subtle changes to the genome, proteome and metabolome.2–4
Another area of application of XRF, “Determination of elemental distribution or heterogeneity by X-ray fluorescence”, is considered by Christopher Shaffer and Didier Bonvin. The ability of modern X-ray spectrometers to perform small spot analysis as well as mapping has opened up new applications in non-homogeneous samples. The authors show applications in metals, precious alloys as well as rocks.
Knowledge about the particles in the air is important because of their effect on our health and their impact on our climate through cloud formation and transport of nutrients into the oceans. Ursula Fittschen describes “Strategies for ambient aerosols characterisation using synchrotron X-ray fluorescence: a review”. This technique can provide elemental determination and speciation of aerosol particulates with limits of detection in the pg m–3 range for many elements.
The analysis of turbid samples is increasingly important, not least due to their widespread occurrence in natural samples. Dmitry Khoptyar, Sören Johansson, Staffan Strömblad and Stefan Andersson-Engels show “Broadband photon time-of-flight spectroscopy as a prospective tool in biomedicine and industrial process and quality control”. The authors describe their recent development of a broadband spectrometer for evaluation of absorption and scattering spectra of very diverse turbid materials in the visible and close-near infrared (NIR) regions and its application with milk, cheese and paper samples.
It is important that places of archaeological and architectural importance need to be explored without damage. Atomic Dielectric Resonance (ADR) can be used for identifying sub-surface geological features. This technology1 uses a novel coherent beam, which has been used in the oil, gas and water industries, to provide information on what lies beneath the earth’s surface, without the need to drill cores.
“Spectral database for postage stamps by means of FT-IR spectroscopy” by Eleonora Imperio, Gabriele Giancane and Ludovico Valli will be of great interest. As well as helping to detect forgeries, FT-IR has been used to create a database which also charts the history of the technology used to create stamps. Quite rightly, they are considered by many to be works of art.