Assessment of laser-induced tissue damage is not complete without an investigation into the resulting cellular and molecular changes. In the past, tissue damage was quantified macroscopically by visual effects such as tissue mass removal, carbonization and melting. Microscopically, assessment of tissue damage has been typically limited to histological analysis of excised tissue samples. In this research, we used heat shock protein (hsp70) transcription to track cellular response to laser-induced injury. A stable cell line (NIH-3T3) was generated containing the firefly luciferase (luc) reporter gene attached to the hsp promoter (murine hsp70a1). After thermal injury with a pulsed holmium–yttrium aluminum garnet laser (λ = 2.1 μm, τp = 250 μs, 30 pulses, 3 Hz), luciferase is produced on hsp70 activation and emits broad-spectrum bioluminescence over a range of 500–700 nm, with a peak at 563 nm. The onset of bioluminescence can be seen as early as 2 h after treatment and usually peaks at 8–12 h depending on the severity of heat shock. The luminescence was quantified in live cells using bioluminescence imaging. A minimum pulse energy (65 mJ/pulse [total energy 1.95 J; total radiant exposure = 6 J/cm2]) was needed to activate the hsp70 response, and a higher energy (103 mJ/pulse [total energy 3.09 J; total radiant exposure = 9.6 J/cm2]) was associated with a reduction in hsp70 response and cell death. Bioluminescence levels correlated well with actual hsp70 protein concentrations as determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Photon counts were normalized to the percentage of live cells by means of a flow cytometry cell viability assay. Within a relatively small range between a lower activation threshold and an upper threshold that leads to cell death, the hsp70 response followed an Arrhenius relationship when constant-temperature water bath and laser experiments were carried out.
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Vol. 79 • No. 1