Reagent- and actuator-free analysis of individual erythrocytes using three-dimensional quantitative phase imaging and capillary microfluidics

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Histopathological examination of blood cells plays a crucial role in the diagnosis of various diseases. However, it involves time-consuming and laborious staining procedures required for microscopic review by medical experts and is not directly applicable for point-of-care diagnosis in resource-limited locations. This study reports a dilution-, actuation- and label-free method for the analysis of individual red blood cells (RBCs) using a capillary microfluidic device and quantitative phase imaging. Blood, without any sample treatment, is directly loaded into a micrometer-thick channel such that it forms a quasi-monolayer inside the channel. The morphological and biochemical properties of RBCs, including hemoglobin concentration, hemoglobin content, and corpuscular volume, were retrieved using the refractive index tomograms of individual RBCs measured using 3D quantitative phase imaging. The deformability of individual RBCs was also obtained by measuring the dynamic membrane fluctuations. The proposed framework applies to other imaging modalities and biomedical applications, facilitating rapid and cost-effective diagnosis and prognosis of diseases.

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