Terahertz radiation may not alter rat basophilic leukemia cell membrane permeability to propidium iodide


  • Savita Ayyalasomayajula Department of Oncology, University of Alberta
  • Steven Willows Nanotechnology Research Centre, National Research Council Canada. 1121 Saskatchewan Dr., Edmonton, Alberta
  • Cameron Hough Department of Physics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Frank Hegmann Department of Physics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Marianna Kulka Nanotechnology Research Centre, National Research Council, Canada. 1121 Saskatchewan Dr., Edmonton, Alberta




Terahertz radiation (THz) technology is fast-growing, with applications in sensing, security, monitoring and pharmaceutical industries. Since it is non-invasive, THz has been used as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool in medicine but its specific effects on biological systems is still largely under-studied. THz has been used to image tissues and cells mainly because it allows for identification of morphological features without the need for fluorescent or radioactive labels, but the potential effects of high intensities of THz radiation are currently not well understood.  One of the hypotheses that has been proposed for possible effects of THz on living cells, is that it disrupts the cell membrane and induces increased permeability. To test this hypothesis we exposed a rat basophilic leukemia cell line (RBL-2H3) to non-thermal intense THz radiation (duration, dose, etc) and observed the internalization of propidium iodide, a fluorescent intercalating agent that binds to DNA. We did not observe any changes in RBL-2H3 fluorescence following exposure to these intense THz pulses suggesting that exposure of RBL-2H3 to THz radiation may not increase their membrane permeability. These experiments were preliminary and further optimization and analysis is required before we can make definitive conclusions. However, our preliminary observations have set a baseline of RBL-2H3 internalization of propidium iodide, show that it is possible to expose RBL-2H3 cells to THz radiation using our configuration, and set the stage for future experiments.






Health Sciences