The use of Wavelength Modulated Raman Spectroscopy in label-free identification of T lymphocyte subsets, Natural Killer cells and Dendritic cells

Mingzhou Chen, Naomi McReynolds, Elaine C. Campbell, Michael Mazilu, João Barbosa, Kishan Dholakia and Simon J. Powis

PLoS ONE 10(5), e0125158 (2015)

doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125158

Determining the identity of cells of the immune system usually involves destructive fixation and chemical staining, or labeling with fluorescently labeled antibodies recognising specific cell surface markers. Completely label-free identification would be a significant advantage in conditions where untouched cells are a priority. We demonstrate here the use of Wavelength Modulated Raman Spectroscopy, to achieve label-free identification of purified, unfixed and untouched populations of major immune cell subsets isolated from healthy human donors. Using this technique we have been able to distinguish between CD4+ T lymphocytes, CD8+ T lymphocytes and CD56+ Natural Killer cells at specificities of up to 96%. Additionally, we have been able to distinguish between CD303+ plasmacytoid and CD1c+ myeloid dendritic cell subsets, the key initiator and regulatory cells of many immune responses. This demonstrates the ability to identify unperturbed cells of the immune system, and opens novel opportunities to analyse immunological systems and to develop fully label-free diagnostic technologies.