Cytological specimens from 21 patients were examined using digital video microscopy. The staining characteristics of cells incubated with hydroquinone and the tetrazolium stain MTT were analysed using a novel procedure that is independent of morphological features and relies on characteristics of the frequency distribution of the localised (pixel) absorbances of the cellular images. The properties of the distribution of absorbances were assessed by a number of procedures. Comparisons were made of nine malignant and 12 non-malignant cytological samples, obtained mainly from pleural and peritoneal fluid. The data showed significant differences between the sets of samples which may be of value in cytological diagnosis. In the material examined all the malignant samples exhibited a positive skewness with the alpha-3 test (the mean alpha-3 value being greater than 0.5); this was true in only two of 12 non-malignant samples. This analytical technique, which is largely independent of morphology, magnification, and absolute absorbance values, seems to hold promise for the simplification and automation of cytological screening procedures.
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