August 9, 2012

2 Min Read
Anemia-Detecting Cell Phone Device Could Impact Pregnant Moms, Newborns in Developing Countries

Innovative and tech-savvy university researchers have been pioneering the development of low-cost medical devices that leverage cell phones, which are often much more accessible in developing countries than traditional medical devices or technologies. Continuing to push progress in this area, student researchers at Johns Hopkins University have created an inexpensive technology that converts a healthcare worker's cell phone into an anemia-detection device for pregnant women and newborns that is optimized for use in developing countries.

This conceptual image illustrates how the HemoGlobe screening device, slipped onto a patient's finger for an anemia test, would connect with a health worker's cell phone. (Credit: Johns Hopkins University)

Pregnant mothers in developed nations are routinely tested for anemia, which results from a deficit of healthy red blood cells and is often attributed to a lack of iron, and treated accordingly. However, anemia in mothers that may not have access to medical care in developing areas may go undetected and cause complications for both mother and baby.

Seeking to address this unmet need, the students built an anemia-detection device called the HemoGlobe. The device features a sensor that is placed on the patient's fingertip and connects to a healthcare worker's cell phone. It then measures the levels of hemoglobin, the iron-based protein that enables red blood cells to store and release oxygen, in the patient's blood by shining various wavelengths of light through the skin. When the test is complete, the cell phone display shows a color-coded test result that indicates the severity of the disease. If anemia is detected, the patient can receive proper treatment.

The HemoGlobe device has received a $250,000 seed grant to further develop the technology and can be produced for just $10 to $20 each, according to the students.

"This device has the potential to be a game-changer," says Soumyadipta Acharya, an assistant research professor in the department of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University and the students' faculty adviser. "It will equip millions of healthcare workers across the globe to quickly and safely detect and report this debilitating condition in pregnant women and newborns."

For more information about cell-phone based medical devices, check out:

Sign up for the QMED & MD+DI Daily newsletter.

You May Also Like