- A new portable blood analyzer developed improves the detection of anemia
- The microfluidic device uses optical absorbance to detect the levels of hemoglobin in whole blood
- Severe anemia can lead to increased maternal and child mortality, impairs cognitive development and physical development in children
Anemia is a disease caused by the deficiency of hemoglobin concentration in red blood cells, and nearly one-quarter of the world suffers from this disease.
Health officials need a global understanding of the disease to reduce the burden of anemia, which is made viable by a portable and affordable way to analyze blood.
‘Anemia can be detected with a microfluidic device that measures the levels of hemoglobin in the blood sample using optical absorbance.’
New Portable Blood Analyzer
A device that is smaller than a toaster has been developed. The device uses optical absorbance to detect the levels of hemoglobin in whole blood samples.
The research team conducted the study at the University of Washington and published in AIP Advances,
from AIP Publishing.
Hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that aids in carrying oxygen throughout the body. When the hemoglobin concentration decreases, there is a depletion of the oxygen levels in the body causing fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and abnormal heart rate.
Currently, the blood analyzers that are in the market measure hemoglobin levels in a sample by rupturing the red blood cells chemically. To prepare and run this technique, it requires hands-on expertise and is limited to monitor only anemia in many parts of the world.
Nathan Sniadecki, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Washington and one of the authors.
Nathan Sniadecki said, "The most exciting aspect to this analyzer is that it uses whole blood and does not require the additional steps and reagents to prepare a sample." Only a few drops of blood is required by this device for analysis.
Nikita Taparia, a doctoral candidate in Snaidecki's lab and another author, said, "You just run blood into the channel, and that's it and can be used anywhere."
To measure the concentration of hemoglobin, the analyzer takes advantage of the optical properties of blood like absorption and scattering.
When compared with normal blood, anemic blood transmits more light, and the severity of anemia is measured as a ratio of transmitted light intensity to original light intensity. To simulate anemia, the blood samples were diluted with a buffer solution, reveals the research team.
Analyzing the Blood Samples to Diagnose Anemia
Moderate to severe anemia cases were predicted by the blood analyzer effectively. In a sample, less than 10 grams per deciliter of hemoglobin is enough to produce the results. No false negative results were produced by the analyzer.
The optical density did not increase continuously in the samples. Therefore, a higher concentration of hemoglobin helps to define the upper limit of detection for the analyzer.
Iron deficiency is the primary cause of anemia. However, other conditions like malaria, genetic disorders like sickle cell can also cause anemia.
Severe anemia leads to increased maternal and child mortality, impairs cognitive development and physical development in children.
Taparia said that it has been gratifying to be part of a project from start to finish that helps people. The analyzer developed is meant for only those people who have the disease.
The current design is a prototype, which can also be integrated with other microfluidic devices that aid in analyzing the blood samples to diagnose anemia and other underlying factors that contribute to the disease.
What is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition, where the red blood cell (RBC) count or hemoglobin is less than normal. RBCs play an essential role in the blood as they contain hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to the body tissues.
Anemia can lead various health complications when the body tissues are deprived of oxygen. General malaise, fatigue, weakness, breathlessness on exertion, angina and palpitations are some of the symptoms of anemia.
Nutritional deficiencies, particularly iron and vitamin deficiency, inherited disorders, exposure to a particular drug or toxin and certain kinds of cancer can all cause anemia.
Anemia can be diagnosed after testing for a complete blood cell (CBC) count that examines the different types of cells in the blood.
Treatment for anemia is targeted towards the cause of the condition, and its outcome depends on the cause, extent of the disease and general health of the patient.
- Nikita Taparia1, Kimsey C. Platten1, Kristin B. Anderson1, and Nathan J. Sniadecki. A microfluidic approach for hemoglobin detection in whole blood. AIP Advances (2017). DOI: 10.1063/1.4997185