Imaging mass spectrometry for novel insights into contact allergy - a proof-of-concept study on nickel
Journal article, 2018

Background. In spite of extensive regulation to limit exposure, nickel remains the main cause of contact allergy in the general population. More detailed knowledge on the skin uptake of haptens is required. So far, no method exists for the visualization of this clinically relevant hapten and its distribution in the skin. Objectives. To show, in terms of a proof of concept, that imaging mass spectrometry [time of flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS)] can be applied for investigation of the penetration and distribution of nickel in human skin. Method. Full-thickness human skin obtained from breast reduction surgery was exposed to nickel sulfate (5% in deionized water) for 24 h in Franz-type diffusion cells. Biopsies were obtained from nickel-treated samples and control (deionized water). The tissue was sliced, and analysed with ToF-SIMS, generating high-resolution images of ion distribution in the epidermis and upper dermis. Results. The skin layers could be discerned from the ToF-SIMS data, particularly on the basis of the collagen signal. Nickel ions were localized to the stratum corneum and upper epidermis. Conclusions. This is the first time that ToF-SIMS has been applied to trace the distribution of a hapten in human skin. Proof of principle was shown for nickel, and the technique can, in the future, be expanded for investigation of the skin distribution of clinically relevant sensitizers in general.

skin penetration



mass spectrometry


Per Malmberg

Chalmers, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Thomas Guttenberg

University of Gothenburg

Marica B. Ericson

University of Gothenburg

Lina Hagvall

University of Gothenburg

Contact Dermatitis

0105-1873 (ISSN) 1600-0536 (eISSN)

Vol. 78 2 109-116

Subject Categories

Dermatology and Venereal Diseases

Other Medical Engineering

Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging





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