A reliable workflow for improving nanoscale X-ray fluorescence tomographic analysis on nanoparticle-treated HeLa cells

Yanqi Luo, Tatjana Paunesku, Olga Antipova, Yuzi Liu, Nestor J. Zaluzec, Zichao Di, Gayle Woloschak, Si Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scanning X-ray fluorescence (XRF) tomography provides powerful characterization capabilities in evaluating elemental distribution and differentiating their inter- and intra-cellular interactions in a three-dimensional (3D) space. Scanning XRF tomography encounters practical challenges from the sample itself, where the range of rotation angles is limited by geometric constraints, involving sample substrates or nearby features either blocking or converging into the field of view. This study aims to develop a reliable and efficient workflow that can (1) expand the experimental window for nanoscale tomographic analysis of local areas of interest within a laterally extended specimen, and (2) bridge 3D analysis at micrometer and nanoscales on the same specimen. We demonstrate the workflow using a specimen of HeLa cells exposed to iron oxide core and titanium dioxide shell (Fe3O4/TiO2) nanocomposites. The workflow utilizes iterative and multiscale XRF data collection with intermediate sample processing by focused ion beam (FIB) sample preparation between measurements at different length scales. Initial assessment combined with precise sample manipulation via FIB allows direct removal of sample regions that are obstacles to both incident X-ray beam and outgoing XRF signals, which considerably improves the subsequent nanoscale tomography analysis. This multiscale analysis workflow has advanced bio-nanotechnology studies by providing deep insights into the interaction between nanocomposites and single cells at a subcellular level as well as statistical assessments from measuring a population of cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022


  • Focusedion beam
  • Multiscale microscopy analysis
  • Nanoparticles and HeLa cells
  • Trace element mapping
  • X-ray fluorescence
  • synchrotron based microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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