Continuous-flow cytomorphological staining and analysis
Cells suspended in bodily fluids are routinely analyzed by cytopathologists as a means of diagnosing malignancies and other diseases. The physical and morphological properties of these suspended cells are evaluated in making diagnostic decisions, which often requires manual concentration, staining, and washing procedures to extract information about intracellular architecture. The need to manually prepare slides for analysis by a cytopathologist is a labor-intensive process, which is ripe for additional automation to reduce costs but also to potentially provide more repeatable and improved accuracy in diagnoses. We have developed a microfluidic system to perform several steps in the preparation of samples for cytopathology that (i) automates colorimetric staining on-chip, and (ii) images cells in flow, as well as provides (iii) additional quantitative analyses of captured images to aid cytopathologists. A flow-through approach provides benefits by allowing staining and imaging to be performed in a continuous, integrated manner, which also overcomes previous challenges with in-suspension colorimetric staining. We envision such a tool may reduce costs and aid cytopathologists in identifying rare or characteristic cells of interest by providing isolated images along with quantitative metrics on single cells from various rotational angles, allowing efficient determination of disease etiology.