Research highlight

Biotechnology: A mobile sickle cell tester

Scientific Reports

October 23, 2015

A smartphone attachment and associated app which can be used as a diagnostic test for sickle cell anaemia are presented in Scientific Reports this week.

Sickle cell anaemia is a hereditary disease caused by a mutation which gives rise to an abnormal form of haemoglobin in red blood cells. The condition, which affects approximately 25% of people living in central and western Africa, can inhibit blood flow, leading to pain, organ damage and an increased risk of stroke. However, confirmatory testing tends to be expensive and requires specialized equipment and training.

Savas Tasoglu and colleagues developed a lightweight and compact 3D printed attachment, which can be fixed to a smartphone, called the Sickle Cell Tester. Using a technique called magnetic levitation, the device uses an optical lens and the smartphone’s camera to analyse red blood cells in a sample. A custom-developed application then automatically analyses the red blood cell distribution to identify the presence of sickle cell anaemia.

The authors note that validation studies of the tester involved patients who had been clinically diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia and control patients. Patients who are carriers of the sickle cell trait (heterozygous) were not included in these studies. Further tests are required to determine if the magnetic levitation platform can distinguish between samples from carriers and those with sickle cell anaemia.

doi: 10.1038/srep15022

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