Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Anemia Detecting Smartphone App

A group of biomedical engineers, at Emory University, have created a smartphone app that can aide in the clinical screening for anemia without the use of blood samples or invasive procedures. The app uses pictures of the patient's fingernails to determine whether their blood hemoglobin levels are low and whether they are at risk for anemia. The results of their work was recently published in the journal Nature Communications

 

Graduate student Rob Mannino (right), pictured with Wilbur Lam (left) was able to refine and tweak technology for anemia detection by using himself as a test subject. Photo by Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech.
Graduate student Rob Mannino (right), pictured with Wilbur Lam (left) was able to refine and tweak technology for anemia detection by using himself as a test subject. Photo by Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech.

“All other ‘point-of-care’ anemia detection tools require external equipment, and represent trade-offs between invasiveness, cost, and accuracy. This is a standalone app that can look at hemoglobin levels without the need to draw blood,” says principal investigator Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD, clinical hematologist-bioengineer at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and a faculty member in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech

 

From the Emory University article: "The researchers were able to show that a single smartphone image, without personalized calibration, can measure hemoglobin level with an accuracy of 2.4 grams/deciliter with a sensitivity of up to 97 percent. Personalized calibration, tested on four patients over the course of several weeks, can improve the accuracy to 0.92 grams/deciliter, a degree of accuracy on par with point-of-care blood-based hemoglobin tests. Normal values are 13.5-17.5 grams/deciliter for males and 12.0-15.5 grams/deciliter for females."

 

Since fingernail beds do not contain melanin, the app gives accurate results to all patient's regardless of skin tone. Additionally, the smartphone app adjust the pictures to correct for brightness levels and can be adapted to be used on any smartphone from any manufacturer. The team is currently working to improve the algorithm for better accuracy.

 

Read more about the anemia detecting smartphone app at Emory University.