Novel way to find abnormal Red Blood Cells

Red Blood cells, Above Normal, Below Abnormal
Red Blood cells, Above Normal, Below Abnormal

Red blood cells (RBCs), when misshaped, represent malaria or sickle cell anemia.

Up-till now, pathologists look under microscopes to find misshapen RBCs. But a team of researchers from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have developed a new way of analyzing the healthy red blood cells with the help of light scattering from hundreds of cells at a time.

This research was published in the October issue of the journal Biomedical Optics Express.

A normal RBC has a shape of a disc with a depression, called a dimple, in the centre. While abnormal RBCs may have no dimple, shallower dimple or deeper dimple (giving the RBCs a different look). UIUC researchers found that if light was fallen on a sample of blood with normal RBCs, the light was scattered in a specific pattern (signature). This specific pattern (signature) was different from the light scattering from blood having misshapen cells. Here researchers used Born approximation – a mathematical rule for study of scattering phenomenon – as the light-cell interaction in this case was difficult to analyze with usual mathematical tools.

With the help of Fourier Transform Light Scattering (FTLS) on individual RBCs, researchers found that scattering of light was affected significantly with the dimple width and diameter of the cells. On the basis of this information, researchers found the appropriate scattering pattern (signature) for healthy cells using Born approximation. This new “healthy cell signature” was then used to assess correct morphology of cells in a blood sample.

According to researchers, this technique may help in faster and accurate blood tests.

This study was conducted in the presence of Gabriel Popescu, Assistant Professor, PhD in Optics.


Lim, J. et. al. (2011). Born approximation model for light scattering by red blood cells. Biomedical Optics Express, 2(10), 2784-2791

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