Quantitative absorption cytometry for measuring red blood cell hemoglobin mass and volume



We present an optical system, called the quantitative absorption cytometer (QAC), to measure the volume and hemoglobin mass of red blood cells flowing through a microfluidic channel. In contrast to clinical hematology analyzers, where cells are sphered in order for both volume and hemoglobin to be measured accurately, the QAC measures cells in their normal physiological shape. Human red blood cells are suspended in a refractive index-matching absorbing buffer, driven through a microfluidic channel, and imaged using a transmission light microscope onto a color camera. A red and a blue LED illuminate cells and images at each color are used to independently retrieve cell volume and hemoglobin mass. This system shows good agreement with red blood cell indices retrieved by a clinical hematology analyzer and in fact measures a smaller coefficient of variation of hemoglobin concentration. In addition to cell indices, the QAC returns height and mass maps of each measured cell. These quantitative images are valuable for analyzing the detailed morphology of individual cells as well as statistical outliers found in the data. We also measured red blood cells in hypertonic and hypotonic buffers to quantify the correlation between volume and hemoglobin mass under osmotic stress. Because this method is invariant to cell shape, even extremely nonspherical cells in hypertonic buffers can be measured accurately. © 2014 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry