Addressing K/L-edge overlap in elemental analysis from micro-X-ray fluorescence: bioimaging of tungsten and zinc in bone tissue using synchrotron radiation and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry.
Synchrotron radiation micro-X-ray fluorescence (SR-μXRF) is a powerful elemental mapping technique that has been used to map tungsten and zinc distribution in bone tissue. However, the heterogeneity of the bone samples along with overlap of the tungsten L-edge with the zinc K-edge signals complicates SR-μXRF data analysis, introduces minor artefacts into the resulting element maps, and decreases image sensitivity and resolution. To confirm and more carefully delineate these SR-μXRF results, we have employed laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) to untangle the problem created by the K/L-edge overlap of the tungsten/zinc pair. While the overall elemental distribution results are consistent between the two techniques, LA-ICP-MS provides significantly higher sensitivity and image resolution compared with SR-μXRF measurements in bone. These improvements reveal tissue-specific distribution patterns of tungsten and zinc in bone, not observed using SR-μXRF. We conclude that probing elemental distribution in bone is best achieved using LA-ICP-MS, though SR-μXRF retains the advantage of being a non-destructive method with the capability of being paired with X-ray techniques, which determine speciation in situ. Since tungsten is an emerging contaminant recently found to accumulate in bone, accurately determining its distribution and speciation in situ is essential for directing toxicological studies and informing treatment regimes. Graphical abstract Tungsten and zinc localization and uptake in mouse femurs were imaged by synchrotron radiation, left, and by laser ablation ICP-MS, right. The increased resolution of the LA-ICP-MS technique resolves the problem of the overlap in tungsten's L-edge and zinc's K-edge.