Buying advice for a live blood analysis microscope
Live blood analysis involves using darkfield microscopy to observe live blood cells in a fresh sample. It’s a popular naturopathic approach that claims to provide a quick and easy glimpse into a person’s health and wellbeing.
While the procedure appears simple, imaging high resolution blood cells in real-time is not easy.
As a potential practitioner, you’re going to need a microscope with high magnifications, good lighting and an excellent camera to get a detailed look at something as small as blood cells.
This is why live blood analysis begins with an investment in a good microscope with specific qualities.
What kind of microscope will I need?
When looking at something as tiny and hard to see as blood cells, you’ll need a highly specialised ‘darkfield’ microscope. As well as a darkfield setup, you’ll need:
- high magnification
- a powerful light source
- a camera mount (found on a ‘trinocular’ microscope), which will allow you to show the image to your client on a screen.
The best way to perform live blood analysis is with darkfield microscopy. This technique uses indirect light to brightly illuminate cells against a dark background.
To use it, you’ll need a darkfield microscope. If you have the budget, you can simply purchase a darkfield microscope, but it is also possible to purchase a darkfield kit and attach it to an existing microscope if it happens to be compatible.
Live blood darkfield setups use a darkfield (oil) condenser and a 100x darkfield objective lens. The condenser only allows obliquely angled light to hit the sample, while the darkfield objective has an integrated iris diaphragm that prevents excess light from ruining your image.
To get the best image quality, put a drop of immersion oil on the condenser and your glass slide – the oil has better optical properties than air and will give a much clearer image.
At 400x magnification, you’ll be able to see blood cells. At 1000x, you’ll be able to see them even closer up.
Just make sure that your microscope has a 40x objective lens and the standard 10x magnification eyepiece lens (40x x 10x = 400x). You can use a 100x objective lens to get up to 1000x magnification.
Dark Field image of Live Blood captured at 400x magnification
It’s worth noting that a 100x objective almost always requires the use of immersion oil – it’s not much more effort but you must remember to clean it off after each use.
A word of caution. Note that higher magnification is not always better with microscopes. As a rule of thumb, magnifications over 1000x don’t provide any more detail and will in fact give you a lower quality image. Some websites boast microscopes with over 1000x or even 2000x. But don’t be fooled, this is almost always a marketing scam.
Dark Field image of Live Blood captured at 1000x magnification
Lighting is very important for live blood analysis. For the brightest, clearest images you will want LEDs.
LED illumination has a pure, bright light with constant colour and intensity. It is also long lasting and energy efficient.
Unlike most other light sources, they produce little or no heat – this is important for wet samples like blood because hot lights can rapidly dry out a slide and very quickly turn your live blood analysis into dead blood analysis.
You will need to connect a camera to your microscope so your clients can see your microscope images on a screen. The most convenient way to do this is to purchase a trinocular microscope.
Trinocular microscopes have an extra eyepiece designed specifically for attaching cameras. You simply slot your camera into the camera mount and you’re ready to go.
What kind of camera will I need?
The best microscope in the world won’t help if you don’t have a decent microscope camera to go with it.
A good camera will allow you to show high-definition images to your client digitally on a screen, as well as capture stills and video of blood samples for your records.
There are quite a few options – from DSLR cameras to USB cameras – but here are some key points to consider.
As your clients will want to see clear, high-resolution images, your best bet is a high-res HD camera. Your ideal camera will depend on the screen or monitor you’re using, but it’s a good idea to go for a 1080p HD camera at the minimum.
If you’re planning to display your microscope images on a large high-res TV or monitor, look into even higher resolution cameras (4K) such as the Optico 4K - USB3 Professional Camera.
The frame rate of your camera determines how frequently your image updates.
In practice, a higher frame rate means a smoother displayed image. Low frame rates will appear choppy, with more abrupt movements.
While high frame rates are desirable, ultimately it comes down to your preferences and budget. 60FPS (frames per second) is generally considered be the optimum frame rate for most purposes but it’s more important to try to avoid low frame rates (< 25FPS).
Do your best to find a microscope with these qualities, and you’ll soon be dazzling clients with high-quality images of their blood cells in action.