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  • Listening to Blood Cells

Photonics.com
Jul 2013
TORONTO, July 8, 2013 — Red blood cells struck with laser light generate high-frequency sound waves that could help researchers to differentiate normal blood cells from abnormal ones for the diagnosis of blood-related diseases.

Deviations from the regular biconcave shape of a red blood cell are a significant indicator of blood-related diseases, whether they result from genetic abnormalities, from infectious agents or simply from a chemical imbalance. For example, the red blood cells of patients with malaria are irregularly swollen, while those with sickle cell anemia take on a rigid, sickle shape.

Similar to the way one can hear the voices of different people and identify who they are, investigators at Ryerson University are using a photoacoustic microscope that detects sound waves to reveal information about the size and shape of red blood cells with high confidence. The information gathered from the 21-cell sample takes only fractions of a second and could aid in the development of simple tests requiring only a single drop of blood to detect blood-related diseases.

New research has revealed that when red blood cells are hit with laser light, they produce high-frequency sound waves that contain a great deal of information.
New research has revealed that when red blood cells are hit with laser light, they produce high-frequency sound waves that contain a great deal of information. Similar to the way one can hear the voices of different people and identify who they are, investigators at Ryerson University say they can analyze the sound waves produced by red blood cells and recognize their shape and size. The information may aid in the development of simple tests for blood-related diseases. Courtesy of Strohm et al, Biophysical Journal.

“We plan to make specialized devices that will allow the detection of individual red blood cells and analyze the photoacoustic signals they produce to rapidly diagnose red blood cell pathologies,” said senior author Dr. Michael Kolios.

The researchers are now working to develop a microfluidic device that integrates the laser and probes to flow single cells through a target area.

“This would enable measuring thousands of cells in a very short period of time with minimal user involvement,” said first author Eric Strohm, a graduate student in Kolios' laboratory.

The method is also being applied to other types of cells, including white blood cells, to detect changes in photoacoustic signals that occur when blood cells clump together to form dangerous blood clots.

The research appeared in Biophysical Journal (doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.05.037).  

For more information, visit: www.ryerson.ca


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