It uses a combination of visible light and infrared techniques to chemically analyse individual cells. That's an individual cell not a cell cluster and since cancer causes chemical changes in cells long before morphological changes, analysis of a single cell could lead the way to much earlier diagnosis of cancer. Early diagnosis of cervical cancer in women is under this type of research at the School of Biospectroscopy at Monash University using the Australian Synchrotron.
Microalgae are good idicators of the health of oceans and are the basis of the aquatic food chain. Fourier-transform spectroscopy is used to study algae where the change in a live single cell alga is recorded over a period of time. The alga can be stressed by too much ultra-violet light, increased carbon dioxide, deprived of nutrients, over-nourished, deprived of light, exposed to pollution.
By analysing the the spectra of the bio-chemical changes, researchers can see how a single alga responds to this external stress in their environment. They can measure how much the proteins, fats, silica and carbohydrates change over time.
And this is how to hold a single cell for analysis. A method called acoustic levitation which was developed for zero gravity experiments in space and successfully adapted for earth laboratories.
This image of a drop of blood in an ultrasonic acoustic levitation device won Steven Morton equal first place in the Eureka Museum Science Photography section, 2007. "This set-up enables us to probe the molecular structure of living cells without interference from any surface and without perturbing the morphology of the cells. It is part of the technique used by researchers at Monash University in Melbourne to monitor drug uptake by red blood cells that are affected by a range of diseases, including malaria and sickle cell disease."