Label-free quantitation of glycated hemoglobin in single red blood cells by transient absorption microscopy and phasor analysis

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Science Advances  10 May 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 5, eaav0561
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav0561


As a stable and accurate biomarker, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) is clinically used to diagnose diabetes with a threshold of 6.5% among total hemoglobin (Hb). Current methods such as boronate affinity chromatography involve complex processing of large-volume blood samples. Moreover, these methods cannot measure HbA1c fraction at single–red blood cell (RBC) level, thus unable to separate the contribution from other factors such as RBC lifetime. Here, we demonstrate a spectroscopic transient absorption imaging approach that is able to differentiate HbA1c from Hb on the basis of their distinct excited-state dynamics. HbA1c fraction inside a single RBC is derived quantitatively through phasor analysis. HbA1c fraction distribution of diabetic blood is apparently different from that of healthy blood. A mathematical model is developed to derive the long-term blood glucose concentration. Our technology provides a unique way to study heme modification and to derive clinically important information void of bloodstream glucose fluctuation.

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