Cell samples flowing along a microfluidic tube are scanned with an optical coherence tomography (OCT) system and their correlation times in M-mode scans are calibrated. In particular, the variations of correlation time with waiting time after 5 and 10 % ethanol are applied to the cell samples are compared for understanding the evolution of cell morphology in the cell death pathways of apoptosis and necrosis, respectively. Also, Au nanorings (NRIs) are taken up by cells for increasing the scattering strength in OCT scanning and hence increasing the signal-to-noise ratio. It is found that when cells are incubated with 5 % ethanol, the correlation time keeps decreasing with waiting time and then increases at 7 hours. On the other hand, when cells are incubated with 10 % ethanol, the correlation time keeps decreasing with waiting time all the way up to 7 hours. This difference may imply that the correlation time from OCT scanning may be determined not only by the size of cell fragment, but also by the smoothness of the cell fragment in a scale of several hundred nm during the apoptosis and necrosis processes. In particular, the results imply that the surface smoothness of the apoptotic bodies formed at the final stage of an apoptosis process is higher than that of the cell fragments formed at the final stage of a necrosis process. This OCT scanning technique has the potential application to the determination of cell death condition with the function similar to cell flow cytometry.
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