We introduce a method which allows partial-volume irradiation of live cells using synchrotron-produced ultrasoft X rays and micro-fabricated irradiation masks. The masks were made by X-ray lithography at the University of Wisconsin Synchrotron Radiation Center, and they consist of 1.85-μm-wide stripes of gold 1.35 μm apart plated onto thin silicon nitride membranes. When placed adjacent to Mylar on which live cells are plated, these masks allow cells to be irradiated in a striped pattern with dimensions much smaller than the cell nuclei. Using 1340 eV synchrotron-produced X rays, we compare the survival of cells subjected to uniform irradiation and cells subjected to partial-volume irradiation. Our results show that, at equal mean dose to the nucleus (i.e. equal total energies deposited), survival is not statistically different for the two treatments over a wide range of doses. Thus imparting equal energies to smaller intranuclear volumes does not appear to enhance cell killing.

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