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Now, smartphone can measure your haemoglobin levels: What this protein does in your body?

Researchers turn the built-in camera of a smartphone into a hyperspectral imager that reliably measures haemoglobin levels. © Shutterstock

Researchers have developed a new smartphone app that can measure your haemoglobin levels from the images of your eyelids. Find out how it works.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Published : May 23, 2020 3:03 PM IST

Digital technology has revolutionised healthcare system greatly, improving the patient care as well as outcomes. In the near future, you may not be required to visit a clinic or hospital to get your blood haemoglobin levels checked. Also, you may not have to go through the painful blood test.

Soon, smartphone images of a person's eyelids may help detect blood haemoglobin levels -- a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. This is possible, thanks to a new smartphone app developed by a team of researchers from Purdue University in the US.

This new approach will enable remote testing of blood haemoglobin levels for detecting anaemia, acute kidney injury and haemorrhages, the researchers noted.

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Using software, the researchers transformed the built-in camera of a smartphone into a hyperspectral imager that reliably measures haemoglobin levels. Interestingly, it doesn't require any hardware modifications or accessories.

For their innovation, the researchers have used a technique known as spectral super-resolution spectroscopy. This technique can virtually convert photos acquired with low-resolution systems such as a smartphone camera into high-resolution digital spectral signals.

Why the eyelids and not any other body parts?

The researchers selected the inner eyelid as a sensing site because microvasculature is easily visible there. Plus, it is easy to access and has relatively uniform redness. Moreover, the inner eyelid is also not affected by skin colour, which eliminates the need for any personal calibrations.

How the new technique works?

The new technique requires a patient to pull down the inner eyelid to expose the small blood vessels underneath. A healthcare professional or trained person then uses the new smartphone app to take pictures of the eyelids.

Applying a spectral super-resolution algorithm, the detailed spectral information from the camera's images is extracted. Another computational algorithm then quantifies the blood haemoglobin content by detecting its unique spectral features.

The mobile app comes with several features that help stabilise smartphone image quality and synchronize the smartphone flashlight to obtain consistent images. There are also eyelid-shaped guidelines on the screen to ensure that users maintain a consistent distance between the smartphone camera and the patient's eyelid.

A pilot clinical test with over 150 volunteers showed that the mobile health test could provide measurements comparable to traditional blood tests. The prediction errors for the smartphone app were found to be within five to 10 per cent of those measured with blood tests.

The study is published in the Optica journal.

Haemoglobin: What it is and what role it plays in your body?

Haemoglobin (Hb) is a protein found in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to your body's organs and tissues. It also transports carbon dioxide from your organs and tissues back to your lungs. It is this protein that gives blood its red colour.

Haemoglobin levels vary from person to person depending on age, sex, race. Men usually have higher haemoglobin levels than women. The normal range for haemoglobin is:

  • For men, 13.5 to 17.5 grams per deciliter
  • For women, 12.0 to 15.5 grams per deciliter
  • Normal ranges for children vary with age and sex.

If your haemoglobin level is lower than the normal range, it means you have a low red blood cell count. This condition is called anaemia. There are many causes of anaemia, but iron deficiency is most common cause of this condition. Iron is essential because it helps your body to make haemoglobin. Anaemia can also be cause by vitamin deficiencies, bleeding and chronic diseases.

If your haemoglobin is higher than normal level, it may be due to these reasons:

  • Polycythemia vera a blood disorder that occurs when your bone marrow makes too many red blood cells
  • Lung disease
  • Dehydration
  • Living at a high altitude
  • Heavy smoking
  • Burns
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Extreme physical exercise

A haemoglobin test can be done as part of a routine check-up to screen for the above health problems.

With inputs from IANS

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