The Viability of Primary Human Skin Fibroblasts Exposed to Heat: The Lethal Dose for 50% Death is 48˚C.

Ms Elissa Henderson1, Ms Margit Kempf2, Ms Emily Jones1, Ms Sara Kong1, Ms Ella Pearson1, Ms Anastasia Kearns1, Dr Leila Cuttle1

1Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, 2University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia


Scald burns are common injuries that can cause lifelong suffering, particularly for children. To prevent burn injuries, attempts have been made to set maximum water temperatures from household faucets, however, there is little evidence of adherence to these guidelines and poor evidence to support them. Prior burn research has mostly focussed on new dressing or treatment methods, but more needs to be understood about the cellular mechanisms involved in heat-affected cells or injury progression. Primary normal human skin fibroblasts were cultured for a period of 6 days and then exposed to a range of temperatures from 37˚C to 54˚C for a period of 1 hour, followed by a 1 hour recovery period. An MTT assay was used to assess the relative cell viability of heat-treated and control cells. Several cell morphology changes were visible when cells were exposed to heat, including: rounding of cells, loss of adherence to cell culture flasks, and degradation of both the nuclear membrane and plasma membrane. The LD50 for 1 hour of heat exposure was determined to be 48˚C for primary fibroblasts. This study supports previous research that thermal damage to cells occurs at 43˚C. This study has provided a reproducible method that can be used to examine the effect of heat on primary human cells grown in culture and can further be used to develop burn therapies that limit heat injury and burn wound progression.


Elissa is student in her third year of a Bachelor of Biomedical Science. Having previously completed a Bachelor of Business, her future career aspirations are to continue in the field in medical research.


ANZBA is a not for profit organisation and the peak body for health professionals responsible for the care of the burn injured in Australia and New Zealand. ANZBA encourages higher standards of care through education, performance monitoring and research.

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