Easy Test For Sickle Cell Disease Using Smartphone

Easy Test For Sickle Cell Disease Using Smartphone
A new device provides a simple, inexpensive, and quick
test for the diagnosis and monitoring of sickle cell 
disease using a common smartphone.
(Credit: Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
A team of biomedical engineers has developed a simple, inexpensive, and quick technique for the diagnosis and monitoring of sickle cell disease that can be used in regions where advanced medical technology and training are scarce. The technology is described in the journal Scientific Reports.

Using a 3D printed device, the team has created a novel testing platform that can accurately diagnose and monitor sickle cell disease in the field or at a remote clinic, using just a few drops of blood. The platform is contained in a lightweight, compact box that can be attached to a common Android smartphone.

Sickle cell is a hereditary disease that affects an estimated 90,000 Americans, as well as people in all countries of Africa. It is a serious public health issue that, if left undiagnosed, can cause life threatening "silent" strokes and lifelong damage.

Current screening and monitoring programs for newborns can be cumbersome, involving expensive centrifuge equipment, microscopy, and specialized training.

The key to the new device is magnetic levitation. Sickle cells, because of their unique crescent moon or sickle-like shape, tend to be denser than healthy red blood cells and therefore levitate or float at a lower height when the cells are placed in a paramagnetic solution and subjected to a magnetic field.
 
"This approach enables a binary (yes/no) decision for identification of sickle cell disease, even by the naked eye," the researchers said.
 
Here's how the device works:
A clinician takes a small blood sample from the patient and mixes it with a common, salt-based solution that draws oxygen out of the sickle cells, making them denser and easier to detect. Healthy red blood cells exposed to the solution are not affected by it. The sample is then loaded into a disposable micro-capillary that is inserted into the tester attached to the smartphone. All of this can be done in under one minute.

Easy Test For Sickle Cell Disease Using Smartphone
Schematic of a sample placed between two magnets
and illuminated by a LED for imaging by the
smartphone camera. (Credit: Tasoglu Lab)

Inside the testing apparatus, the micro-capillary passes between two magnets that are aligned so that the same poles face each other, creating a magnetic field. The capillary is then illuminated with an LED that is filtered through a ground glass diffuser and magnified by an internal lens. The smartphone's built-in camera captures the resulting image and presents it digitally on the phone's external display. The blood cells floating inside the capillary - whether higher floating healthy red blood cells or lower floating sickle cells - can then be easily observed. The device also provides clinicians with a digital readout that assigns a numerical value to the sample density to assist with the diagnosis. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes.
 
"Rather than sending a sample to a lab and waiting three days to find out if you have this disease, with this device you get on-site and portable results right away. We believe a device like this could be very helpful in third world countries where laboratory resources may be limited," the researchers said.
 
They have filed a provisional patent for the device, and is currently working on expanding the device's capabilities so it can be applied to other diseases.

Based on material originally posted by University of Connecticut.