July 04, 2013
Photoacoustic Microscope Can Detect Blood Cell Diseases

20 years from now I expect visits to doctors' offices to be much rarer, at least for diagnosis. Hopefully visits will be more frequent in order to get stem cell therapies that slow and reverse aging. But automated small cheap and widely available diagnostic devices will enable much diagnosis to take place in web servers automatically fed all test results. The testing will be done in drug stores, storefronts for blood sampling taking, and with devices embedded in the home. As an example of a step in that direction a photoacoustic microscope which measures sounds created by laser light hitting red blood cells can diagnose some blood diseases.

Using a special photoacoustic microscope that detects sound, the investigators were able to differentiate healthy red blood cells from irregularly shaped red blood cells with high confidence, using a sample size of just 21 cells. Because each measurement takes only fractions of a second, the method could eventually be incorporated into an automated device for rapid characterization of red blood cells from a single drop of blood obtained in the clinic.

A single drop of blood is so easy to get that there'll be no need for a trip to a clinic. Diabetics take a drop of blood every day.

Lasers cause sound waves to emanate from red blood cells. Who knew?

New research reveals that when red blood cells are hit with laser light, they produce high frequency sound waves that contain a great deal of information. Similar to the way one can hear the voices of different people and identify who they are, investigators reporting in the July 2 issue of Biophysical Journal, published by Cell Press, could analyze the sound waves produced by red blood cells and recognize their shape and size. The information may aid in the development of simple tests for blood-related diseases.

"We plan to make specialized devices that will allow the detection of individual red blood cells and analyze the photoacoustic signals they produce to rapidly diagnose red blood cell pathologies," says senior author Dr. Michael Kolios, of Ryerson University, Toronto.

Deviations from the regular biconcave shape of a red blood cell are a significant indicator of blood-related diseases, whether they result from genetic abnormalities, from infectious agents, or simply from a chemical imbalance. For example, malaria patients' red blood cells are irregularly swollen, while those of patients with sickle cell anemia take on a rigid, sickle shape.

Throw in some microfluidic devices and other instrumentation built into your bedroom and bathroom and every night you will be able to get yourself checked for many diseases.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 July 04 08:49 PM 

budusan said at July 6, 2013 4:54 PM:

Or, one can look at the cells under the microscope to gain the same information. But that would not be very sexy and amenable to hype in popular publications...

Gabriel said at July 6, 2013 6:50 PM:


budusan, to look for yourself you need training, this could be made through software.

REN said at July 7, 2013 11:59 AM:

Through silicon vias, called TSV's. TSV's allow transducers to be bonded to underlying logic circuits. Think of TSV's as wires that lead down to the memory and logic cores of CMOS devices below. The same applies to analog computer chips, where the TSV's allow interconnections to the outside world.

We are only now getting a handle on how to make TSV's economically. New ways of making thin copper seeds and thin barriers with atomic layer depostion. New copper plater type tools that can deposit these deep vias that have very large aspect ratios. New etch tools and back planing procedures, etc. are all part of the learning cycle.

So, the semiconductor industry will, starting about now, allow many types of transducers to be bonded to logic cores via TSV's. This means computer chips will have increasing ability to sense the world. A complete device along with power supply, can be shrunk to small dimensions.

Expect many more Transducer/TSV/Logic combos to be made in the future. High functionality is then scaled down, and then massed produced, creating new markets.

Most people in future will likely have a doctors station at home tied into a cloud database. After all, most medical doctors are flow chart specialists, not free thinking engineers or scientists. We could even have inexpensive toilet transducers analyzing our excrement, and making almost real time reports.

As always, I will ask an economic question: How will these labor savings devices translate into more free time? Even though we just put the industrial revolution into hypedrive, we have not developed a higher level leisure society. Any futurist should concentrate his mind like a "laser" into economics.

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