Quantification and control of ultrasound-mediated cell death modes
Hutcheson, Joshua Daniel
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Ultrasound has been identified as a possible non-invasive drug delivery device that could avoid many of the problems found in traditional therapeutics. Studies have shown that ultrasound can deliver molecules into cells; however, the applicability of ultrasound has been limited due to uncontrollable cellular viability losses after sonication. In this study, we sought to quantify the heterogeneous bioeffects of ultrasound in order to gain more insight into how ultrasound affects cells. We were also concerned with identifying the causes of and preventing programmed cell death caused by ultrasound exposure. In order to accomplish these objectives, we used flow cytometry to group cells into quantifiable characteristic populations. This allowed us to identify the relative importance of different forms of rapid cell death. We found that up to 65% of cells (at the highest ultrasound pressure studied) can lose viability rapidly and, for the first time, quantified them among three distinct populations: (1) cells that retain normal size but lose plasma membrane integrity; (2) intact nuclei surrounded by plasma membrane remnants; (3) debris resulting from cellular lysis. Our analysis was supported by mechanical sorting of these populations and subsequent imaging using confocal microscopy. We then monitored the viable populations for 6 h after ultrasound exposure. Results indicated that up to 15% of viable cells (at the highest ultrasound pressure studied) underwent apoptosis, which we showed was associated with an influx of intracellular Ca2+; therefore, we developed a method of chelating intracellular Ca2+ after sonication in an effort to maintain viability of those cells. Using this technique, we showed for the first time that cells could be saved, and we were able to prevent apoptosis by 50%, thereby increasing the overall viability of cells exposed to ultrasound. We conclude that ultrasound is a useful method to deliver molecules into cells and that appropriate selection of sonication conditions can minimize cell death by rapid and apoptotic mechanisms.