High resolution imaging of the morphology differences between normal and sickle red blood cells has been achieved in a blood-vessel-mimicking fluid environment with no exogenous dyes or labels. Previously, the Yelin research group demonstrated the use of spectrally encoded flow cytometry to image red blood cells in vitro
and in vivo
passing through a cross-sectional point in a fluidic chamber or blood vessel. Confocal imaging, encoded by both wavelength and time, is performed on the resulting cellular reflections, permitting derivation of blood cell morphology and blood parameters. Here, Kviatkovsky and colleagues extend this technique by developing a new analytical numerical model of sickle cell morphology to interpret the three-dimensional interference patterns. By imaging sickle cells in this near-native fluid environment, it was found that the cell surface remains optically smooth and the distinguishing dent in the center of the red blood cell was conserved. In the future, by combining this analytical model with the ability to measure red blood cells in vivo,
a better understanding of the malformed red blood cells' physiology during sickle cell crisis event could be elucidated.
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