Development of multi-scale X-ray fluorescence tomography for examination of nanocomposite-treated biological samples

Si Chen, Ruben Omar Lastra, Tatjana Paunesku, Olga Antipova, Luxi Li, Junjing Deng, Yanqi Luo, Michael Beau Wanzer, Jelena Popovic, Ya Li, Alexander D. Glasco, Chris Jacobsen, Stefan Vogt, Gayle E. Woloschak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Research in cancer nanotechnology is entering its third decade, and the need to study interactions between nanomaterials and cells remains urgent. Heterogeneity of nanoparticle uptake by different cells and subcellular compartments represent the greatest obstacles to a full understanding of the entire spectrum of nanomaterials’ effects. In this work, we used flow cytometry to evaluate changes in cell cycle associated with non-targeted nanocomposite uptake by individual cells and cell populations. Analogous single cell and cell population changes in nanocomposite uptake were explored by X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM). Very few nanoparticles are visible by optical imaging without labeling, but labeling increases nanoparticle complexity and the risk of modified cellular uptake. XFM can be used to evaluate heterogeneity of nanocomposite uptake by directly imaging the metal atoms present in the metal-oxide nanocomposites under investigation. While XFM mapping has been performed iteratively in 2D with the same sample at different resolutions, this study is the first example of serial tomographic imaging at two different resolutions. A cluster of cells exposed to non-targeted nanocomposites was imaged with a micron-sized beam in 3D. Next, the sample was sectioned for immunohistochemistry as well as a high resolution “zoomed in” X-ray fluorescence (XRF) tomography with 80 nm beam spot size. Multiscale XRF tomography will revolutionize our ability to explore cell-to-cell differences in nanomaterial uptake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4497
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • BIRC5
  • Cell cycle
  • Nanocomposites
  • Nanoparticles
  • X-ray fluorescence (XRF) tomography
  • X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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