On monocytes and lymphocytes biolens clustering by in flow holographic microscopy

Cytometry A. 2023 Mar;103(3):251-259. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.24685. Epub 2022 Sep 7.


Live cells act as biological lenses and can be employed as real-world optical components in bio-hybrid systems. Imaging at nanoscale, optical tweezers, lithography and also photonic waveguiding are some of the already proven functionalities, boosted by the advantage that cells are fully biocompatible for intra-body applications. So far, various cell types have been studied for this purpose, such as red blood cells, bacterial cells, stem cells and yeast cells. White Blood Cells (WBCs) play a very important role in the regulation of the human body activities and are usually monitored for assessing its health. WBCs can be considered bio-lenses but, to the best of our knowledge, characterization of their optical properties have not been investigated yet. Here, we report for the first time an accurate study of two model classes of WBCs (i.e., monocytes and lymphocytes) by means of a digital holographic microscope coupled with a microfluidic system, assuming WBCs bio-lens characteristics. Thus, quantitative phase maps for many WBCs have been retrieved in flow-cytometry (FC) by achieving a significant statistical analysis to prove the enhancement in differentiation among sphere-like bio-lenses according to their sizes (i.e., diameter d) exploiting intensity parameters of the modulated light in proximity of the cell optical axis. We show that the measure of the low intensity area (S: I z < I th z ) in a fixed plane, is a feasible parameter for cell clustering, while achieving robustness against experimental misalignments and allowing to adjust the measurement sensitivity in post-processing. 2D scatterplots of the identified parameters (d-S) show better differentiation respect to the 1D case. The results show that the optical focusing properties of WBCs allow the clustering of the two populations by means of a mere morphological analysis, thus leading to the new concept of cell-optical-fingerprint avoiding fluorescent dyes. This perspective can open new routes in biomedical sciences, such as the chance to find optical-biomarkers at single cell level for label-free diagnosis.

Keywords: biolens; digital holographic cytometry; microfluidics; opto-biology; white blood cells.

MeSH terms

  • Holography* / methods
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes
  • Microscopy* / methods
  • Monocytes
  • Optics and Photonics