04 July 2013

Red Blood Cell Stethoscope

Sound waves will help in the diagnosis of blood diseases

ABC MagazineA new study has proved that under the influence of a laser beam, red blood cells begin to emit sound waves.

By analyzing these waves, researchers can determine the size and shape of red blood cells with high speed and accuracy. This technique can simplify and speed up the diagnosis of blood diseases. The scientists' article was published in the Biophysical Journal (Strohm et al., Probing Red Blood Cell Morphology Using High-Frequency Photoacoustics).

Any changes in the classic biconcave shape of red blood cells are an important indicator of blood diseases – it does not matter whether they are caused by genetic defects, infection or simply a chemical imbalance. For example, in patients with malaria, erythrocytes swell unevenly, and in patients with sickle cell anemia they acquire a curved shape.

With the help of a special photoacoustic microscope, Dr. Michael Kolios and his colleagues from Ryerson University in Toronto managed to accurately separate red blood cells of normal shape and size from damaged ones in a blood sample containing only 21 red blood cells. Assessment of the condition of each red blood cell takes only a few seconds.

The frames from the video attached to the article show how the signal intensity and the spectrum of the oscillation frequency change
a normal erythrocyte when it is rotated by 90 o – VM

The researchers plan to create an automatic diagnostic device based on this technique, which will determine the state of red blood cells by one drop of blood and in a very short time. Such devices can be placed in polyclinics and hospitals. Currently, Dr. Kolios and his colleagues are developing a similar technique for analyzing the condition of other cell types, including leukocytes and platelets.

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