Anemia affects an estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide, in both developed and developing countries. Although easily treated, it is not always detected, especially when individuals have limited access to healthcare providers. Now, researchers at the University of Kansas are hoping to make it significantly easier to diagnose anemia at home using a smartphone and a 3D printed biomedical device.
The research team has developed a prototype for 3D printed clear plastic microfluidic slides that can be attached to a smartphone. To test for anemia, users simply prick their finger, add a drop of blood to a slide, and scan the slide under a smartphone. It takes less than a minute for the blood test results to processed and interpreted by the smartphone.
The device uses a color-scale based test to check for anemia. The color scale method of testing for anemia estimates the concentration of hemoglobin, the iron-rich protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen to the body’s tissues and gives blood its color. Anemia occurs when the red blood cell count is low or when red blood cells don’t contain enough hemoglobin.
Anemia Blood Diagram
Anemia is easily treatable, but without a blood test, it can often go undiagnosed. The most common symptoms of this condition include tiredness and weakness, which may be mistaken as signs of stress or another problem. The researchers at Kansas State hope that their new device will help people with anemia in developing areas who may have access to a smartphone but limited access to health care. With an inexpensive, point-of-care device, users will be able to quickly detect and diagnose anemia and get the treatment they need, which may consist of eating more iron-rich foods or taking iron supplements and vitamins.
The Kansas State researchers have received approval to begin testing their biomedical prototype with patient blood samples from the university medical center. This will allow them to better calibrate the device to diagnose different levels of anemia in the blood. They hope that with the low cost of producing the device, it will eventually be possible to distribute it widely in areas where healthcare access is limited.