Raman spectra of cells, such as normal human T- and B-cells from peripheral blood or human tonsil and the corresponding transformed cells are obtained by optically trapping the cells and obtaining their Raman spectra. The trapped cells can be subjected to one, two, or more different excitation wavelengths, and each wavelength of the corresponding Raman spectra can be stored in a separate channel. In preferred embodiments, two spectra are subtracted from each other to give a difference spectrum and each channel is analyzed independently to characterize the trapped cell. Alternatively, the Raman spectrum can be subjected to Principal Component Analysis (PCA) in order to characterize the trapped cell. The trapped cell thus classified can be sorted, or further manipulated.
 This invention was made with support of government grants PHY-012099 from the National Science Foundation, and W-7405-Eng-48 from the U.S. Department of Energy. Therefore, the United States government may have certain rights in the invention.