Natural pigment distinguishes between living and dead cells in cultures without damaging them

Scientists know several methods to distinguish living cells from dead ones in toxicological

research, and one of the most popularapproaches is "determination of cell viability by dye exclusion" - DET - using synthetic dyes. In normal DET, a dye such as trypan blue or methylene blue selectively penetrates and stains dead cells, distinguishing them from living ones. However, these synthetic dyes are known to also damage living cells in culture. This makes them unsuitable for long-term research.

Now scientists have discovered an alternative to DET withsynthetic dyes: dye exclusion method using natural pigment made from Monascus purpureus (MP). This is a type of mold traditionally used in Asia for the production of fermented foods.

In a recent study, the teamresearchers have proven that MP can be used to determine the viability of breast cancer cells. The scientists found that, unlike trypan blue, MP does not damage living cells and is resistant to the typical chemotherapy drug cisplatin. What's more, it took only ten minutes to stain dead MP cells, and its cost is ten times less than trypan blue.

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