One way doctors can diagnose anemia is to determine the number of red blood cells by looking at the patient’s eyelids to determine whether the eyelids are red. But the challenge for doctors is that the simple test is not accurate enough to give a diagnosis without taking a blood sample from a patient. Researchers at Purdue University in the United States have developed software that allows medical staff to take pictures of a patient’s inner eyelids on a smartphone and obtain a near-accurate count of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells.
Currently, the team is working to embed the software into a mobile app that will run on a smartphone. The researchers believe the app could help doctors diagnose and treat anemia earlier, or allow users to better manage blood disorders at home. The technology could also be used in developing countries to better treat patients without a blood testing infrastructure.
The researchers working on the project say the technology will not replace traditional blood tests, but it does give an immediate, comparable hemoglobin count and is noninvasive. The use of the software is also near real-time, and it is important that blood test results can take several hours in a hospital environment.
The software is a portable version of a commonly used spectral analysis technique that detects hemoglobin by absorbing visible light. The researchers developed an algorithm that uses a method called hyper-resolution spectral analysis to convert low-resolution smartphone photos into high-resolution digital spectral signals.
Another computational algorithm detects these signals and uses them to quantify the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. The researchers say the idea is to use a simple photo to get a spectrum of colors. The team is working on a smartphone app that doesn’t require any additional hardware to detect and measure hemoglobin levels.