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J Biomed Opt. 2012 Aug;17(8):085002-1. doi: 10.1117/1.JBO.17.8.085002.

Effects of acetic acid on light scattering from cells.

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  • 1Los Alamos National Laboratory, Bioscience Division, MS M888, Los Alamos, NM 87544, USA.


Acetic acid has been used for decades as an aid for the detection of precancerous cervical lesions, and the use of acetic acid is being investigated in several other tissues. Nonetheless, the mechanism of acetowhitening is unclear. This work tests some of the hypotheses in the literature and measures changes in light scattering specific to the nucleus and the cytoplasm. Wide angle side scattering from both the nucleus and the cytoplasm increases with acetic application to tumorigenic cells, with the increase in nuclear scattering being greater. In one cell line, the changes in nuclear scattering are likely due to an increase in number or scattering efficiency of scattering centers smaller than the wavelength of excitation light. There are likely several cellular changes that cause acetowhitening and the cellular changes may differ with cell type. These results should lead to a better understanding of acetowhitening and potentially the development of adjunct techniques to improve the utility of acetic acid application. For the well-studied case of cervical tissue, acetowhitening has been shown to be sensitive, but not specific for oncogenic changes needing treatment.

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