Optical diffraction tomography (ODT) enables imaging of unlabeled intracellular components by measuring the three-dimensional (3D) refractive index (RI). We aimed to detect intracellular monosodium urate (MSU) crystals in synovial leukocytes derived from gout patients using ODT. The 3D RI values of the synthetic MSU crystals, measured by ODT, ranged between 1.383 and 1.440. After adding synthetic MSU crystals to a macrophage, RI tomograms were reconstructed using ODT, and the reconstructed RI tomograms discerned intracellular and extracellular MSU crystals. We observed unlabeled synthetic MSU crystal entry into the cytoplasm of a macrophage through time-lapse imaging. Furthermore, using gout patient-derived synovial leukocytes, we successfully obtained RI tomogram images of intracellular MSU crystals. The 3D RI identification of MSU crystals was verified with birefringence through polarization-sensitive ODT measurements. Together, our results provide evidence that this novel ODT can identify birefringent MSU crystals in synovial leukocytes of patients with gout.
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