Key Laboratory for the Chemistry and Molecular Engineering of Medicinal Resources (Ministry of Education of China), School of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Guangxi Normal University, Guilin, 541004, China. Electronic address: [Email]
A method of simultaneous cell counting and determination of metals in single cells using time-resolved inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) was reported. A facile, low cost and highly efficient single-cell introduction system of time-resolved ICP-MS consists of a flow cell, a visual contrast calibration device, a customized nebulizer and a fabricated spray chamber. The flow cell includes a cell sample tube, a sheath liquid tube and a flow chamber. The visual contrast calibration device was composed of a microscope with a 16 × microscope objective (160 × total magnification). The flow chamber was used to combine a flow of red blood cell suspension (0.800 μL/min) and a flow of PBS (4.40 μL/min) into the nebulizer. The intact cells were directly introduced with the single-cell introduction system into the plasma via nebulizing, and then ion plumes corresponding to single cells were individually detected with mass spectrometer. The frequency of the spikes directly reflects the number of cells, and the intensity of spikes is proportional to the concentration of copper within one cell. The single-cell introduction system can be transported into the ICP-MS via a customized transport system with 100% efficiency. A high cell introduction efficiency into the plasma supports for a reduction of cell consumption. The Cu signal frequency was about 120 cell events per minute. This single-cell introduction system simplifies the introduction of individual and intact cells. The copper content in single red blood cell was 0.20-0.40 fg.