The biomedical uses for the spectroscopy of scattered light by micro and nanoscale objects can broadly be classified into two areas. The first, often called light scattering spectroscopy (LSS), deals with light scattered by dielectric particles, such as cellular and sub-cellular organelles, and is employed to measure their size or other physical characteristics. Examples include the use of LSS to measure the size distributions of nuclei or mitochondria. The native contrast that is achieved with LSS can serve as a non-invasive diagnostic and scientific tool. The other area for the use of the spectroscopy of scattered light in biology and medicine involves using conducting metal nanoparticles to obtain either contrast or electric field enhancement through the effect of the surface plasmon resonance (SPR). Gold and silver metal nanoparticles are non-toxic, they do not photobleach, are relatively inexpensive, are wavelength-tunable, and can be labeled with antibodies. This makes them very promising candidates for spectrally encoded molecular imaging. Metal nanoparticles can also serve as electric field enhancers of Raman signals. Surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) is a powerful method for detecting and identifying molecules down to single molecule concentrations. In this review, we will concentrate on the common physical principles, which allow one to understand these apparently different areas using similar physical and mathematical approaches. We will also describe the major advancements in each of these areas, as well as some of the exciting recent developments.

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