In a recent study, the team has applied the method – known as Spatial Phantom Evaluation of Cellular Thermal Response in Layers (SPECTRL) – to measure the 3D spatial viability response in tissue-like sodium alginate phantoms treated with single-walled carbon nanohorns. Here, SPECTRL provided a detailed assessment of the kill zone (volume in which the percentage of viable cells is below 1%) and the transition zone (volume in which the percentage of viable cells is between 1 and 63%).

To perform the task, the tool digitally processes images of fluorescently stained cells in each phantom taken at varying locations and focal depths, and then identifies the live and dead cells in each image. Using this method, the researchers can then identify changes in size and shape of the kill and transition zones within the phantom resulting from varying durations of laser irradiation combined with carbon nanohorns.

The method could be used to evaluate a wide variety of cancer treatments that are designed to target cancer cells, or produce spatial responses. It could also be used to track cellular migration, or spatially varying cellular responses such as angiogenesis or inflammation in transparent 3D scaffolds.

More information can be found in the journal Nanotechnology.