Maria Montero

The new smartphone app can help detect the …

Biomedical engineers have developed a new smartphone app that could non-invasively detect anemia without the need for a blood test.

The app uses photos of a person’s nails taken on a smartphone to accurately measure the amount of hemoglobin in their blood.

Representative image. Image courtesy of the Franklin Institute.

Nail beds are ideal for anemia screening because they do not contain melanin, the pigment that gives color to human skin, hair, and eyes, indicating that the test may be valid for people with a variety of skin tones .

“All other point-of-care anemia screening tools require external equipment and represent trade-offs between invasiveness, cost, and accuracy,” said lead researcher Wilbur Lam, associate professor at Emory University in the United States.

“This is a standalone application whose accuracy is on par with currently available point-of-care testing without the need to draw blood,” Lam said.

The research is particularly helpful for pregnant women, women with abnormal menstrual bleeding, runners / athletes, and patients with chronic anemia, as they can manage their disease and identify times when they should adjust their therapies or receive transfusions, the researchers noted.

The app, detailed in the journal Nature Communications, is part of the doctoral work of former biomedical engineering graduate student Rob Mannino, who was motivated to conduct the research by his own experience of living with beta-thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder that reduces production. of hemoglobin.

Maninno took pictures of himself before and after the transfusions, as his hemoglobin levels were changing.

Later, the researchers studied nail photos and correlated the color of the nail beds with the hemoglobin levels measured by complete blood count (CBC) in 337 people.

The results showed some healthy and others with a variety of anemia diagnoses.

However, additional research is needed to finally achieve the precision to replace the blood-based anemia test for clinical diagnosis, according to the team.

The anemia app for smartphones is projected to be commercially available for public download in 2019.