An in vitro approach to photodynamic therapy

Evan Austin, Jared Jagdeo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a medical procedure that involves incubation of an exogenously applied photosensitizer (PS) followed by visible light photoactivation to induce cell apoptosis. The Federal Drug Administration has approved PDT for the treatment of actinic keratosis, and clinical guidelines recommend PDT as a treatment for certain non-melanoma skin cancers and acne vulgaris. PDT is an advantageous therapeutic modality as it is low cost, non-invasive, and associated with minimal adverse events and scaring. In the first step of PDT, a PS is applied and allowed to accumulate intracellularly. Subsequent light irradiation induces reactive oxygen species formation, which may ultimately lead to cell apoptosis, membrane disruption, mitochondrial damage, immune modulation, keratinocyte proliferation, and collagen turnover. Herein, we present an in vitro method to study PDT in an adherent cell line. This treatment protocol is designed to simulate PDT and may be adjusted to studying the use of PDT with various cell lines, photosensitizers, incubation temperatures, or photoactivation wavelengths. Squamous cell carcinoma cells were incubated with 0, 0.5, 1.0, and 2 mM 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) for 30 min and photoactivated with 417 nm blue light for 1,000 s. The primary outcome measure was apoptosis and necrosis, as measured by annexin-V and 7-aminoactinomycin D flow cytometry. There was a dose-dependent increase in cell apoptosis following thirty-minute incubation of 5-ALA. To achieve high inter-test validity, it is important to maintain consistent incubation and light parameters when performing in vitro PDT experiments. PDT is a useful clinical procedure and in vitro research may allow for the development of novel PSs, optimization of protocols, and new indications for PDT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere58190
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number138
StatePublished - Aug 17 2018


  • Actinic keratosis
  • Aminolevulinic acid
  • Issue 138
  • Medicine
  • PDT
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Photosensitizer
  • Phototherapy
  • Skin cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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