The second imaging method that will be used, scanning ion conductance microscopy (SICM), belongs to the family of Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM), together with atomic force microscopy (AFM). SPM allows for the topographic imaging of a sample surface at nm resolution. This contact-free imaging technique therefore permits absolutely non-invasive tests of several treatment conditions (e.g., medication response, the analysis of control cells, and the effects of the medication dose) on the level of a single cell or even on a single molecular structure in a living cell.
Challenge: SICM is a very novel technique, and no published investigations have applied this technique to RBCs. However a small number of studies using AFM have identified morphological parameters that distinguish RBCs from healthy humans from those of patients with elliptocytosis, type II diabetes and other blood diseases. This fact suggests a positive outcome in the effort to identify the morphological features that characterise RBCs from patients with RA and perhaps those features that differ between patients with different types of RA.