Isoflurane enhances the malignant potential of glioblastoma stem cells by promoting their viability, mobilityin vitroand migratory capacityin vivo

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Isoflurane is one of the most common general anaesthetics used during surgical procedures, including tumour resection. However, the effects of isoflurane on the viability and migration capacity of cancer cells, specifically in the context of brain cancer cells, remain unclear. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the influence that isoflurane has on the function of glioblastoma stem cells (GCSs) in regards to cell proliferation, survival and migration.


U251-GSCs were exposed to isoflurane at clinically relevant concentrations and incubation times. The effects on proliferation, survival and migration capacities of the cells were evaluated in vitro. The potential risk was assessed in mice by intracranial injection of U251-GSCs pretreated with isoflurane. Furthermore, the average tumour volume and migration distance of U251-GSCs from the tumour centre were calculated.


Exposure of U251-GSCs to 1.2% isoflurane for 6 h resulted in increased proliferation (P<0.05) and decreased apoptosis rate (P<0.05) when compared with the control group. In addition, isoflurane exposure caused increased migration capacity in vitro (P<0.05) and the distance migrated was increased in vivo (P<0.05).


Clinically relevant concentrations and incubation times of isoflurane could promote the viability and mobility of U251-GSCs, suggesting this general anaesthetic may have detrimental effects in glioblastoma by facilitating its growth and migration.

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