In combining the photothermal and photodynamic effects for killing cancer cells through the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSP) of photosensitizer-linked Au nanorings (NRIs), which are up-taken by the cells, the cells can be killed via different processes, including necrosis and apoptosis. In particular, the dominating effect, either photothermal or photodynamic effect, for cancer cell killing leading to either necrosis or apoptosis process is an important issue to be understood for improving the therapy efficiency. In this paper, we demonstrate the study results in differentiating the necrosis and apoptosis processes of cell death under different laser illumination conditions. With the LSP resonance wavelength of the Au NRIs around 1064 nm, the illumination of a 1064-nm cw laser can mainly produce the photothermal effect. The illumination of a 1064-nm fs laser can lead to LSP resonance-assisted two-photon absorption of the photosensitizer (AlPcS) for generating singlet oxygen and hence the photodynamic effect, besides the photothermal effect. Also, the illumination of a 660-nm cw laser can result in single-photon absorption of the photosensitizer for generating singlet oxygen and the photodynamic effect. By comparing the necrosis and apoptosis distributions in dead cells between the cases of different laser illumination conditions, we can differentiate the cancer cell killing processes between the photothermal effect, photodynamic effect, and the mixed effect.
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