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J Biomed Opt. 2011 Mar;16(3):037007. doi: 10.1117/1.3562925.

Noninvasive identification of subcellular organization and nuclear morphology features associated with leukemic cells using light-scattering spectroscopy.

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  • 1Tufts University, Biomedical Engineering Department, Medford, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Leukemia is the most common and deadly cancer among children and one of the most prevalent cancers among adults. Improvements in its diagnosis and monitoring of leukemic patients could have a significant impact in their long-term treatment. We demonstrate that light-scattering spectroscopy (LSS)-based approaches could serve as a tool to achieve this goal. Specifically, we characterize the light scattering properties of leukemic (NALM-6) cells and compare them to those of normal lymphocytes and granulocytes in the 440-710 nm range, over ±4 deg about the exact backscattering direction. We find that the LSS spectra are well described by an inverse power-law wavelength dependence, with a power exponent insensitive to the scattering angle but significantly higher for leukemic cells than for normal leukocytes. This is consistent with differences in the subcellular morphology of these cells, detected in differential interference contrast images. Furthermore, the residual light-scattering signal, extracted after subtracting the inverse power-law fit from the data, can be analyzed assuming a Gaussian distribution of spherical scatterers using Mie theory. This analysis yields scatterer sizes that are consistent with the diameters of cell nuclei and allows the detection of the larger nuclei of NALM-6 cells compared to those of lymphocytes and granulocytes.

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