Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Undergrads invent cell phone screener to combat anemia in developing world

25.07.2012
Could a low-cost screening device connected to a cell phone save thousands of women and children from anemia-related deaths and disabilities?

That's the goal of Johns Hopkins biomedical engineering undergraduates who've developed a noninvasive way to identify women with this dangerous blood disorder in developing nations. The device, HemoGlobe, is designed to convert the existing cell phones of health workers into a "prick-free" system for detecting and reporting anemia at the community level.


This conceptual image illustrates how the HemoGlobe anemia screening device, slipped onto a patient's finger, would connect with a health worker's cellphone to display the test results.
Credit: JHU

The device's sensor, placed on a patient's fingertip, shines different wavelengths of light through the skin to measure the hemoglobin level in the blood. On a phone's screen, a community health worker quickly sees a color-coded test result, indicating cases of anemia, from mild to moderate and severe.

If anemia is detected, a patient would be encouraged to follow a course of treatment, ranging from taking iron supplements to visiting a clinic or hospital for potentially lifesaving measures. After each test, the phone would send an automated text message with a summary of the results to a central server, which would produce a real-time map showing where anemia is prevalent. This information could facilitate follow-up care and help health officials to allocate resources where the need is most urgent.

Soumyadipta Acharya, an assistant research professor in Johns Hopkins' Department of Biomedical Engineering and the project's faculty advisor and principal investigator, said the device could be important in reducing anemia-related deaths in developing countries. International health experts estimate that anemia contributes to 100,000 maternal deaths and 600,000 newborn deaths annually.

"This device has the potential to be a game-changer," Acharya said. "It will equip millions of health care workers across the globe to quickly and safely detect and report this debilitating condition in pregnant women and newborns."

The HemoGlobe student inventors have estimated their cell phone-based systems could be produced for $10 to $20 each. At the recent Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development competition, the potential public health benefits of this device won over the judges, who awarded a $250,000 seed grant to the Johns Hopkins students' project. The event, which attracted more than 500 entrants from 60 countries, was sponsored by prominent global health organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Only 12 entrants received seed grants.

"When we thought about the big-name corporations and nonprofit groups we were competing against, we were amazed and surprised to find out that our team had won," said George Chen, 19, of Hacienda Heights, Calif., a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering. Chen attended the July 14 announcement in Seattle, along with Acharya and team members Noah Greenbaum and Justin Rubin.

For a biomedical engineering design team class assignment, the students spent a year brainstorming and building a prototype. The seed grant will allow the team to refine its technology and support field testing next year in Kenya by Jhpiego, a Johns Hopkins affiliate that provides global health training and services for women and their families. Jhpiego sponsored the HemoGlobe project through a partnership with the university's Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design.

Team member Greenbaum, 21, of Watchung, N.J, a senior majoring in biomedical and electrical engineering, has continued working on the anemia system this summer.

"The first year we just focused on proving that the technology worked," he said. "Now, we have a greater challenge: to prove that it can have a real impact by detecting anemia and making sure the mothers get the care they need."

The student inventors were looking for a new way to curb a stubborn health problem in developing nations. Anemia occurs when a person has too few healthy red blood cells, which carry critical oxygen throughout the body. This is often due to a lack of iron, and therefore a lack of hemoglobin, the iron-based protein that helps red blood cells store and release oxygen. Anemic mothers face many complications before and during birth, including death from blood loss associated with the delivery. In addition, a baby that survives a birth from an anemic mother may face serious health problems.

Health officials in developing countries have tried to respond by making iron supplements widely available. According to Acharya, however, the problem of anemia remains intractable. "So we looked at it from a different angle," he said.

In places where medical care is easily accessible, doctors routinely test pregnant women for anemia and prescribe treatment, including routine iron supplementation. But in developing regions where medical help is not always nearby, the condition may go undetected. Community health workers with limited training do, however, serve these areas.

"The team members realized that every community health worker already carries a powerful computer in their pocket -- their cell phone," Acharya said. "So we didn't have to build a computer for our screening device, and we didn't have to build a display. Our low-cost device will use the existing cell phones of health workers to estimate and report hemoglobin levels."

A provisional patent covering the invention has been obtained through the Johns Hopkins Technology Transfer office.

In addition to Chen, Greenbaum and Rubin, other Whiting School of Engineering students who have participated on the team are Guilherme Barros, William Chen, Judy Doong, Phillip Oh and David Yin.

Color graphics of the invention are available; contact Phil Sneiderman.

Related links:
Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering: http://www.bme.jhu.edu/
Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design: http://cbid.bme.jhu.edu/
Jhpiego: http://www.jhpiego.org/
Whiting School of Engineering: http://engineering.jhu.edu/

Phil Sneiderman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.jhu.edu

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht Potentially life-saving health monitor technology designed by Sussex University physicists
10.01.2018 | University of Sussex

nachricht 2 million euros in funding for new MR-compatible electrophysiological brain implants
18.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für biologische Kybernetik

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

White graphene makes ceramics multifunctional

16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

Breaking bad metals with neutrons

16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

ISFH-CalTeC is “designated test centre” for the confirmation of solar cell world records

16.01.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>