Photoacoustic (PA) imaging is a non-invasive real-time technique, widely applied to many biomedical imaging studies in the recent years. While most of these studies have been focussed on obtaining an image after reconstruction, various features of time domain signal (e.g. amplitude, width, rise and relaxation time) would provide very high sensitivity in detecting morphological changes in cells during a biological study. Different haematological disorders (e.g., sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia) exhibit significant morphological cellular changes. In this context, this study explores the possibility of utilizing the developed photoacoustic response technique to apply onto blood samples. Results of our preliminary study demonstrate that there is a significant change in signal amplitude due to change in concentration of the blood. Thus it shows the sensitivity of the developed photoacoustic technique towards red blood cell count (related to haematological disease like anaemia). Subsequently, morphological changes in RBC (i.e. swollen and shrunk compared to normal RBC) induced by hypotonic and hypertonic solutions respectively were also experimented. The result shows a distinct change in PA signal amplitude. This would serve as a diagnostic signature for many future studies on cellular morphological disorders.
In this paper, a full-field photothermal imaging technique, which does not require a time consuming scan as used in the conventional photothermal imaging system, is reported. Imaging on gold nanoparticles (70 nm) and a blue polystyrene bead (193 nm) were conducted and the experimental results demonstrate the visualization ability of the photothermal imaging technique on nanotargets that are below the diffraction limit. The photothermal imaging system can be operated in an ambient environment where vacuum is not required.
Red blood cells (RBCs) have been found to undergo "programmed cell death," or eryptosis, and understanding this process can provide more information about apoptosis of nucleated cells. Photothermal (PT) response, a label-free photothermal noninvasive technique, is proposed as a tool to monitor the cell death process of living human RBCs upon glucose depletion. Since the physiological status of the dying cells is highly sensitive to photothermal parameters (e.g., thermal diffusivity, absorption, etc.), we applied linear PT response to continuously monitor the death mechanism of RBC when depleted of glucose. The kinetics of the assay where the cell's PT response transforms from linear to nonlinear regime is reported. In addition, quantitative monitoring was performed by extracting the relevant photothermal parameters from the PT response. Twofold increases in thermal diffusivity and size reduction were found in the linear PT response during cell death. Our results reveal that photothermal parameters change earlier than phosphatidylserine externalization (used for fluorescent studies), allowing us to detect the initial stage of eryptosis in a quantitative manner. Hence, the proposed tool, in addition to detection of eryptosis earlier than fluorescence, could also reveal physiological status of the cells through quantitative photothermal parameter extraction.