For most people blood tests are synonymous with needle-sticks. However, researchers from the biomedical engineering department at the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) may have found a way to take the pain out of some of our blood tests in the future. The researchers have developed a new microscope that can non-invasively image individual blood cells.
The microscope uses spectrally encoded confocal microscopy (SECM), a technique which allows for 2D spatial imaging of the blood cells. In order to image the moving blood cells, a probe is pressed against the skin which generates a line spectrum of light from red to violet. As blood cells near the surface of the skin cross the projected spectrum they scatter the light, which is collected by the probe and analyzed to generate 2D images of the blood cells.
The researchers have just published details of an early validation study of the microscope in the Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal Biomedical Optics Express. Using the device, the researchers scanned blood cells flowing through the lip of a healthy volunteer and measured the average diameter of the red and white blood cells and also calculated the percent volume of the different cell types.
While a number of other blood-scanning systems exist with the capability to image at cell resolution, the researchers believe their device will offer significant advantages in terms of speed, portability and safety. The team is currently working on a second generation device in order to achieve a greater penetration depth for imaging.
Full study in Biomedical Optics Express: Noninvasive imaging of flowing blood cells using label-free spectrally encoded flow cytometry