Monitoring cellular behaviour using Raman spectroscopy for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications

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Raman spectroscopy has been used to determine the chemical composition of materials for over 70 years. Recent spectacular advances in laser and CCD camera technology creating instruments with higher sensitivity and lower cost have initiated a strong resurgence in the technique, ranging from fundamental research to process controlmethodology. One such area of increased potential is in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine (TERM), where autologous cell culture, stem cell biology and growthof human cells on biomaterial scaffolds are of high importance. Traditional techniques for the in vitro analysis of biochemical cell processes involves cell techniques such as fixation, lysis or the use of radioactive or chemical labels which are time consuming and can involve the perpetuation of artefacts. Several studies have already shown the potential of Raman spectroscopy to provide useful information on key biochemical markers within cells, however, many of these studies have utilised micro- or confocal Raman to do this, which are not suited to the rapid and noninvasive monitoring of cells. For this study a versatile fit for-purpose Raman spectrometer was used, employing a macro-sampling optical platform (laser spot size 100 microns at focus on the sample) to discriminate between different TERM relevant cell types and viable and non-viable cells. The results clearly show that the technique is capable of obtaining Raman spectra from live cells in a non-destructive, rapid and non-invasive manner, however, in these experiments it was not possible to discriminate between different cell lines. Despite this, notable differences were observed in the spectra obtained from viable and non-viable cells, showing significant changes in the spectral profiles of protein, DNA/RNA and lipid cell constituents after cell death. It is evident that the method employed here shows significant potential for further utilisation in TERM, providing data directly from live cells that fits within a quality assurance framework and provides the opportunity to analyse cells in a non-destructive manner.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2317-2324
JournalJournal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2009


  • Raman Spectroscopy
  • Tissue Engineering
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Cell Viability


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