This work describes the development of a biologically based sensing technique to quantify chemical agents that pose inhalation health hazards. The approach utilizes cultured epithelial cells (A549 human type II pneumocytes) of the lung, exposed to potential toxins and monitored through the noninvasive means of infrared spectroscopy to quantify changes to cell physiology and function. Cell response to Streptolysin O, a cholesterol-binding cytolysin, is investigated here. Infrared spectra display changes in cell physiology indicative of membrane damage, altered proteins, and some nucleic acid damage. Methods to improve cell adhesion through modification of support surface properties are detailed. This spectroscopic approach not only provides a robust means to detect potential toxins but also provides information on modes of damage and mechanisms of cellular response.
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