EPJ Tech Instrum 2015;2(1). Epub 2015 Mar 24.
School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD UK.
Stem cell therapy is widely acknowledged as a key medical technology of the 21st century which may provide treatments for many currently incurable diseases. These cells have an enormous potential for cell replacement therapies to cure diseases such as Parkinson's disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disorders, as well as in tissue engineering as a reliable cell source for providing grafts to replace and repair diseased tissues. Nevertheless, the progress in this field has been difficult in part because of lack of techniques that can measure non-invasively the molecular properties of cells. Such repeated measurements can be used to evaluate the culture conditions during differentiation, cell quality and phenotype heterogeneity of stem cell progeny. Raman spectroscopy is an optical technique based on inelastic scattering of laser photons by molecular vibrations of cellular molecules and can be used to provide chemical fingerprints of cells or organelles without fixation, lysis or use of labels and other contrast enhancing chemicals. Because differentiated cells are specialized to perform specific functions, these cells produce specific biochemicals that can be detected by Raman micro-spectroscopy. This mini-review paper describes applications of Raman micro-scpectroscopy to measure moleculare properties of stem cells during differentiation in-vitro. The paper focuses on time- and spatially-resolved Raman spectral measurements that allow repeated investigation of live stem cells in-vitro.