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Queen Mary University of LondonQueen Mary University of London
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School of Engineering and Materials Science
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PhD Thesis: Development of a non-invasive method to detect pericellular spatial oxygen gradients using FLIM

Author: HOSNY, Neveen

Year: 2011

Supervisor(s): Martin Knight

Extracellular oxygen concentrations affect cellular metabolism and influence tissue function. Detection methods for these extracellular oxygen concentrations currently have poor spatial resolution and are frequently invasive. Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Microscopy (FLIM) offers a non-invasive method for quantifying local oxygen concentrations. However, existing FLIM methods also show limited spatial resolution >1 ?m and low time-resolved accuracy and precision, due to widefield time-gate. This study describes a new optimised approach using FLIM to quantity extracellular oxygen concentration with high accuracy (±7 ?mol/kg) and spatial resolution ( ? 0.3 ?m). An oxygen sensitive fluorescent dye, tris(2,2?-bipyridyl)ruthenium(II) chloride hexahydrate [Ru(bipy)3]+2, was excited with a multi-photon laser and fluorescence lifetime was measured using time-correlated single photon counting (TCSPC). The system was fully calibrated with optimised techniques developed for avoiding artefacts associated with photon pile-up and phototoxicity, whilst maximising spatial and temporal resolution. An extended imaging protocol (1800 sec) showed no phototoxic effects on cells at dye concentrations of <0.4 mM. Extracellular spatial oxygen gradients were identified around isolated chondrocytes, seeded in three-dimensional agarose gel. The technique was validated by regulating oxygen cellular consumption and thus confirming that the oxygen gradient was governed by cellular consumption. The technique identified a subpopulation of cells exhibiting statistically significant spatial oxygen gradients at the cell perihery. The subpopulation was shown to be significantly larger in cell diameter correlating with what that expected from chondrocytes in the deep zone. This technique provides an exciting opportunity to non-invasively quantify pericellular spatial oxygen gradients from within three-dimensional cellular constructs without prior manipulation of the cells. Thus by examining cellular metabolisms it will advance our understanding of the optimal cellular environment for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.