Gout and pseudogout are forms of crystal arthropathy caused by monosodium urate (MSU) and calcium pyrophosphate dehydrate (CPPD) crystals in the joint, respectively, that can result in painful joints. Detecting the unique-shaped, birefringent MSU/CPPD crystals in a synovial fluid sample using a compensated polarizing microscope has been the gold-standard for diagnosis since the 1960’s. However, this can be time-consuming and inaccurate, especially if there are only few crystals in the fluid. The high-cost and bulkiness of conventional microscopes can also be limiting for point-of-care diagnosis.
Lens-free on-chip microscopy based on digital holography routinely achieves high-throughput and high-resolution imaging in a cost-effective and field-portable design. Here we demonstrate, for the first time, polarized lens-free on-chip imaging of MSU and CPPD crystals over a wide field-of-view (FOV ~ 20.5 mm2, i.e., <20-fold larger compared a typical 20X objective-lens FOV) for point-of-care diagnostics of gout and pseudogout. Circularly polarizer partially-coherent light is used to illuminate the synovial fluid sample on a glass slide, after which a quarter-wave-plate and an angle-mismatched linear polarizer are used to analyze the transmitted light. Two lens-free holograms of the MSU/CPPD sample are taken, with the sample rotated by 90, to rule out any non-birefringent objects within the specimen. A phase-recovery algorithm is also used to improve the reconstruction quality, and digital pseudo-coloring is utilized to match the color and contrast of the lens-free image to that of a gold-standard microscope image to ease the examination by a rheumatologist or a laboratory technician, and to facilitate computerized analysis.