Study finds new way to quickly detect red blood cell pathogens

A recent study conducted by researchers from Ryerson University, Toronto has discovered a new way to rapidly detect pathogens in red blood cells by using laser light.

During the study, researchers found that red blood cells produce high frequency sound waves when hit with laser light. The waves give a lot of information about the cell's health, as different diseases change the shape and size of red blood cells. The study was published by Cell Press in the July 2 issue of Biophysical Journal.

"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," Senior Author Dr. Michael Kolios, a professor at Ryerson University, said.

Researchers were able to differentiate healthy red blood cells from diseased red blood cells confidently using a photoacoustic microscope that detects sound. Kolios and his team used a sample size of 21 cells and found each measurement for detection takes a fraction of a second. With current technology, researchers are predicting they will be able to analyze a patient's blood by using a single drop as a sample.

"We are currently developing a microfluidic device, which integrates the laser and probes and flows single cells through the target area," Eric Strohm, a graduate student in Dr. Kolios' laboratory and the first author in the study, said. "This would enable measuring thousands of cells in a very short period of time with minimal user involvement."

The same technology is currently being tested for use with white blood cells, which clump together to form dangerous blood clots.