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Monitoring Quantitative Ultrasound Parameter Changes in a Cell Pellet Model of Cell Starvation.


Although it has previously been shown that the spectral analysis of ultrasound backscatter data is sensitive to the cellular changes caused by apoptosis, the sensitivity of spectral analysis to oncosis or ischemic cell death had not previously been studied. Whereas many anticancer treatments induce apoptosis, others induce cell starvation, or oncosis. HT-29 colon adenocarcinoma cells were formed into pellets and covered in phosphate-buffered saline at room temperature for 56 h. The pellets were imaged every 8 h with high-frequency (55 MHz) ultrasound and the raw radio-frequency data processed. The lack of nutrients available to the cells induced cell death due to oncosis. The attenuation slope, speed of sound, spectral slope, and midband fit were estimated at each of the eight time points to identify changes as the cells died due to starvation. The spectral slope decreased monotonically over the 56 h, whereas the attenuation slope showed an increase between 1 and 48 h, followed by a slight decrease between 48 and 56 h. The midband fit did not vary over time. The speed of sound increased from 1514 to 1532 m/s over the first 24 h, after which time it plateaued. These in vitro results indicate different trends in ultrasound parameter changes from those of in vitro apoptotic cells, suggesting that these different methods of cell death can be identified not only by morphological markers, but also by specific ultrasound signatures.