The changing wavelengths of light emitted during experiments, and captured over a period of 10 minutes, showed that once the PDT drug was activated, the level of viscosity inside the cell increased dramatically. The researchers suggest that this increasing 'gloopiness' is caused by the toxic oxygen molecules released into the cell. They think that increased levels of viscosity might even contribute directly to the cancer cell's further deterioration by slowing down vital communication and transport processes inside the cell.
Dr Stanley Botchway from the Science and Technology Facilities Council which worked in collaboration with Imperial College London on this research, said: "The huge viscosity we measured was surprising and it certainly gives a new insight into the change in cellular environment during cell death."
However, the researchers noted that as viscosity in the cancerous cell increases, the toxic oxygen molecule's mission to kill the cell is slowed down too.
Dr Kuimova explains: "It looks like whilst the increasing viscosity contributes to the cell's demise, these new 'sticky' cell conditions can slow the drug down too, so it's not as straightforward a relationship as it might first appear.
"More work is needed to better understand the complex interplay between viscosity and cell death. We hope to use our imaging technique to track changes in viscosity in other kinds of cells as they occur in real-time, to unlock some of the secrets of what goes on inside cells when they're functioning, malfunctioning or dying."
|Contact: Danielle Reeves|
Imperial College London