MetaboNews December: Helena Petrosova

Dr. Helena Petrosova is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at the University of Victoria and also the Group Leader of a Mass spectrometry imaging unit at the UVic Genome BC Proteomics Centre. Dr. Petrosova actively participates in TMIC activities through the Uvic Node, particularly in projects and technology developments associated with mass spectrometry imaging (MSI). With the generous support of the PacifiCan and CFI agencies, Proteomics Centre acquired two mass spectrometry imaging instruments, a Bruker timsTOF flex MALDI-2, and a Spectroglyph transmission mode MALDI-2. Dr. Helena was appointed to re-establish a mass spectrometry imaging core at the Centre, under the direction of Dr. David Goodlett.

Mass Spectrometry Imaging (MSI)

Mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) stands at the forefront of cutting-edge analytical techniques, revolutionizing our understanding of biological systems, materials, and various scientific disciplines. By combining the power of mass spectrometry with spatial information, MSI enables the visualization and identification of molecules within complex samples directly in their native environments. This non-destructive imaging technique has widespread applications across biology, medicine, pharmacology, environmental science, and materials research, offering unparalleled insights into molecular distributions, interactions, and dynamics at a spatial level. Its ability to map the spatial distribution of a wide range of molecules, from small metabolites to large biomolecules, makes MSI an invaluable tool for exploring the intricate complexities of biological tissues, disease pathology, chemical compositions, and structural characteristics with exceptional detail and precision.

Mass spectrometry imaging is a powerful technique that can support research in various research fields, including infectious diseases, cancer, drug development and testing, biomarker discovery, and many others. Beyond human health, mass spectrometry imaging is applied to veterinarian medicine, toxicology, agriculture, and environmental research.

Helena Petrosova

She is also involved in The Metabolomic Consortium of BC (MetaboBC) group, a cluster of leading experts in metabolomics research, with the mission in developing a deep understanding of dietary, nutritional, and metabolic insight into human cancers. With Dr. Kyle Duncan from Vancouver Island University, her mass spectrometry imaging unit forms the Imaging Core for the MetaboHUB research project recently funded by the Terry Fox Research Institute. Under the guidance of Dr. Julian Lum, this cooperative endeavor involves five cancer research labs situated throughout Canada.


Employing novel mass spectrometry approaches, we have recently analyzed the varied structures of lipid A, a significant endotoxin, within the genus Leptospira, the pathogen responsible for leptospirosis. Our mass spectrometry imaging tool is situated in a biosafety level 2 environment, enabling direct investigation of infected tissues and providing crucial spatial insights into the interface between the host and spirochete.

Another publication on the integration of Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry and Kendrick Mass Defect Plots facilitated a comprehensive analysis of the intricate mixture of lipooligosaccharide, revealing abundant new insights into its structural variations.

The Group leader of Metabolomics in the Centre, Dr. Jun Han also published a MALDI imaging related paper in “Journal of Chromatography A” late July 2022. This study presents on tissue in-situ labelling strategy using a commercially available agent. This approach is robust, easy-to-use and low-cost method of catecholamines imaging. The visualization method of the distribution of three catecholamine compounds (dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine) in porcine adrenal gland is developed and employed

Mass spectrometry imaging workflow (MALDI)
A thin tissue section is sprayed with a matrix dissolved in an appropriate solvent. Solvent droplets enable the extraction of target molecules and allow them to co-crystalize with the matrix. A virtual raster is created over the tissue section, and a laser is utilized to ablate the crystals at each raster pixel. Matrix desorbs the laser’s energy and aids the formation of ions that are detected by a mass spectrometer. Images are created from the resulting mass spectra.

Scroll to Top