The development of nontoxic agents that can selectively enhance the cytotoxicity of chemotherapy is an important aim in oncology. This study evaluates the ability of infrasound exposure to sensitize glioblastoma cells to cisplatin-induced apoptosis. The infrasound was delivered using a device designed to replicate the unique infrasound emissions measured during external Qigong treatments. Human glioblastoma cell lines harboring wild-type p53 (U87) or mutant p53 (U251, SF210, and SF188) were treated in culture with cisplatin, infrasound emissions, or the combination of the 2 agents. Induction of apoptosis was quantified after 24 hours by flow cytometry following annexin V/propidium iodide staining. Infrasound emissions alone, delivered at moderate levels (~10 mPa) with dynamic frequency content (7-13 Hz), did not induce apoptosis, yet combining infrasound with cisplatin augmented the induction of apoptosis by cisplatin in all the 4 cell lines (P < .05). Increased cellular uptake of the fluorophore calcein associated with infrasound exposure was quantified by fluorescence microscopy as well as flow cytometry, demonstrating increased cell membrane permeability. The 4 cell lines differed in the degree to which infrasound exposure increased calcein uptake, and these differences were predictive of the extent to which infrasound enhanced cisplatin-induced apoptosis. When exposed to specific frequencies, membrane permeabilization also appeared to be differentially responsive for each cell line, suggesting the potential for selective targeting of tissue types using isolated infrasonic frequencies. Additionally, the pressure amplitudes used in this study were several orders of magnitude less than those used in similar studies involving ultrasound and shock waves. The results of this study provide support for using infrasound to enhance the chemotherapeutic effects of cisplatin in a clinical setting.
Keywords: cancer; chemotherapy; glioma; permeabilization; sonoporation.