Topography and refractometry of sperm cells using spatial light interference microscopy

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Characterization of spermatozoon viability is a common test in treating infertility. Recently, it has been shown that label-free, phase-sensitive imaging can provide a valuable alternative for this type of assay. We employ spatial light interference microscopy (SLIM) to perform high-accuracy single-cell phase imaging and decouple the average thickness and refractive index information for the population. This procedure was enabled by quantitative-phase imaging cells on media of two different refractive indices and using a numerical tool to remove the curvature from the cell tails. This way, we achieved ensemble averaging of topography and refractometry of 100 cells in each of the two groups. The results show that the thickness profile of the cell tail goes down to 150 nm and the refractive index can reach values of 1.6 close to the head.

Chenfei Hu