KEYWORDS: Nanosensors, Cancer, Visualization, 3D modeling, Oxygen, Surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy, Scanning electron microscopy, Transmission electron microscopy, In vivo imaging, 3D image processing
Cellular redox potential is important for the control and regulation of a vast number of processes occurring in cells. When the fine redox potential balance within cells is disturbed it can have serious consequences such as the initiation or progression of disease. It is thought that a redox gradient develops in cancer tumours where the peripheral regions are well oxygenated and internal regions, further from vascular blood supply, become starved of oxygen and hypoxic. This makes treatment of these areas more challenging as, for example, radiotherapy relies on the presence of oxygen. Currently techniques for quantitative analysis of redox gradients are limited. Surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) nanosensors (NS) have been used to detect redox potential in a quantitative manner in monolayer cultured cells with many advantages over other techniques. This technique has considerable potential for use in multicellular tumour spheroids (MTS) – a three dimensional (3D) cell model which better mimics the tumour environment and gradients that develop. MTS are a more realistic model of the in vivo cellular morphology and environment and are becoming an increasingly popular in vitro model, replacing traditional monolayer culture. Imaging techniques such as transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and helium ion microscopy (HIM) were used to investigate differences in morphology and NS uptake in monolayer culture compared to MTS. After confirming NS uptake, the first SERS measurements revealing quantitative information on redox potential in MTS were performed.