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Opt Express. 2006 May 15;14(10):4412-26.

Time-resolved optical imaging provides a molecular snapshot of altered metabolic function in living human cancer cell models.


A fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) method was developed and applied to investigate metabolic function in living human normal esophageal (HET-1) and Barrett's adenocarcinoma (SEG-1) cells. In FLIM, image contrast is based on fluorophore excited state lifetimes, which reflect local biochemistry and molecular activity. Unique FLIM system attributes, including variable ultrafast time gating (>/= 200 ps), wide spectral tunability (337.1 - 960 nm), large temporal dynamic range (>/= 600 ps), and short data acquisition and processing times (15 s), enabled the study of two key molecules consumed at the termini of the oxidative phosphorylation pathway, NADH and oxygen, in living cells under controlled and calibrated environmental conditions. NADH is an endogenous cellular fluorophore detectable in living human tissues that has been shown to be a quantitative biomarker of dysplasia in the esophagus. Lifetime calibration of an oxygen-sensitive, ruthenium-based cellular stain enabled in vivo oxygen level measurements with a resolution of 8 muM over the entire physiological range (1 - 300 muM). Starkly higher intracellular oxygen and NADH levels in living SEG-1 vs. HET-1 cells were detected by FLIM and attributed to altered metabolic pathways in malignant cells.

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