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J Biomed Opt. 2011 Nov;16(11):117001. doi: 10.1117/1.3644389.

Wavelength-dependent backscattering measurements for quantitative monitoring of apoptosis, part 1: early and late spectral changes are indicative of the presence of apoptosis in cell cultures.

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  • 1Boston University, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Apoptosis, a form of programmed cell death with unique morphological and biochemical features, is dysregulated in cancer and is activated by many cancer chemotherapeutic drugs. Noninvasive assays for apoptosis in cell cultures can aid in screening of new anticancer agents. We have previously demonstrated that elastic scattering spectroscopy can monitor apoptosis in cell cultures. In this report we present data on monitoring the detailed time-course of scattering changes in a Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) and PC-3 prostate cancer cells treated with staurosporine to induce apoptosis. Changes in the backscattering spectrum are detectable within 10 min, and continue to progress up to 48 h after staurosporine treatment, with the magnitude and kinetics of scattering changes dependent on inducer concentration. Similar responses were observed in CHO cells treated with several other apoptosis-inducing protocols. Early and late scattering changes were observed under conditions shown to induce apoptosis via caspase activity assay and were absent under conditions where apoptosis was not induced. Finally, blocking caspase activity and downstream apoptotic morphology changes prevented late scattering changes. These observations demonstrate that early and late changes in wavelength-dependent backscattering correlate with the presence of apoptosis in cell cultures and that the late changes are specific to apoptosis.

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