Computational models predicting cell damage responses to transient temperature rises generated by exposure to lasers have implemented the damage integral (Ω), which time integrates the chemical reaction rate constant described by Arrhenius. However, few published reports of empirical temperature histories (thermal profiles) correlated with damage outcomes at the cellular level are available to validate the breadth of applicability of the damage integral. In our study, an analysis of photothermal damage rate processes in cultured retinal pigment epithelium cells indicated good agreement between temperature rise, exposure duration (τ), and threshold cellular damage. Full-frame thermograms recorded at high magnification during laser exposures were overlaid with fluorescence damage images taken 1 h postexposure. From the image overlays, pixels of the thermogram correlated with the boundary of cell death were used to extract threshold thermal profiles. Assessing photothermal responses at these boundaries standardized all data points, irrespective of laser irradiance, damage size, or optical and thermal properties of the cells. These results support the hypothesis that data from boundaries of cell death were equivalent to a minimum visible lesion, where the damage integral approached unity (Ω = 1) at the end of the exposure duration. Empirically resolved Arrhenius coefficients for use in the damage integral determined from exposures at wavelengths of 2 μm and 532 nm and durations of 0.05–20 s were consistent with literature values. Varying ambient temperature (Tamb) between 20°C and 40°C during laser exposure did not change the τ-dependent threshold peak temperature (Tp). We also show that, although threshold laser irradiance varied due to pigmentation differences, threshold temperatures were irradiance independent.
Thermal damage rate processes in biological tissues are usually characterized by a kinetics approach. This stems from experimental data that show how the transformation of a specified biological property of cells or biomolecule (plating efficiency for viability, change in birefringence, tensile strength, etc.) is dependent upon both time and temperature. Here, two disparate approaches were used to study thermal damage rate processes in cultured retinal pigment epithelial cells. Laser exposure (photothermal) parameters included 2-μm laser exposure of non-pigmented cells and 532-nm exposures of cells possessing a variety of melanosome particle densities. Photothermal experiments used a mid-IR camera to record temperature histories with spatial resolution of about 8 μm, while fluorescence microscopy of the cell monolayers identified threshold damage at the boundary between live and dead cells. Photothermal exposure durations ranged from 0.05-20 s, and the effects of varying ambient temperature were investigated. Temperature during heat transfer using a water-jacketed cuvette was recorded with a fast microthermister, while damage and viability of the suspended cells were determined as percentages. Exposure durations for the heat transfer experiments ranged from 50- 60 s. Empirically-determined kinetic parameters for the two heating methods were compared with each other, and with values found in the literature.
Photothermal damage rate processes in biological tissues are usually characterized by a kinetics approach. This stems from experimental data that show how the transformation of a specified biological property of cells or biomolecule (plating efficiency for viability, change in birefringence, tensile strength, etc.) is dependent upon both time and temperature. However, kinetic methods require determination of kinetic rate constants and knowledge of substrate or product concentrations during the reaction. To better understand photothermal damage processes we have identified temperature histories of cultured retinal cells receiving minimum lethal thermal doses for a variety of laser and culture parameters. These “threshold” temperature histories are of interest because they inherently contain information regarding the fundamental thermal dose requirements for damage in individual cells. We introduce the notion of time-integrated temperature (Tint) as an accumulated thermal dose (ATD) with units of °C s. Damaging photothermal exposure raises the rate of ATD accumulation from that of the ambient (e.g. 37 °C) to one that correlates with cell death (e.g. 52 °C). The degree of rapid increase in ATD (ΔATD) during photothermal exposure depends strongly on the laser exposure duration and the ambient temperature.