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Exp Ther Med. 2011 Sep;2(5):849-852. Epub 2011 Jul 1.

Low-intensity ultrasound-induced cellular destruction and autophagy of nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells.

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  • 1Department of Ultrasound Medicine, The Affiliated Hospital of North Sichuan Medical College, Sichuan;


Ultrasound therapy, as a non-invasive modality, has been attracting extensive attention in the management of malignant tumors. The present study aimed to investigate low-intensity ultrasound-induced cellular destruction and autophagy in nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells in vitro. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma CNE2 cells were subjected to ultrasound exposure, as tumor model cells, at an intensity of 1.35 W/cm(2). Cytotoxicity was investigated 24 h after ultrasound treatment. Nuclear damage was observed using nuclear staining with Hoechst 33258. Mitochondrial dysfunction was measured using confocal laser scanning microscopy with rhodamine123 staining. Mitochondrial morphology and autophagy were observed using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Low-intensity ultrasound significantly killed CNE2 cells proportional to the ultrasonic treatment time. Upon nuclear staining, nuclear condensation and typical apoptotic bodies were noted in the CNE2 cells exposed to ultrasound wave for 12 sec. A collapse in mitochondrial membrane potential was noted in the treated cells. Upon TEM, swollen mitochondria, more vacuoles and autophagy were noted after ultrasound treatment. Our findings demonstrate that low-intensity ultrasound significantly damages CNE2 cells and emphasize that autophagy may be an important event in ultrasound-induced cell death.

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