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New Mobile App is Capable of Diagnosing Anemia Without a Blood Test
Date: 1/25/2019

Blood tests to diagnose anemia could soon become a thing of the past, thanks to the new mobile app developed by a group of researchers based in Atlanta. The app can tell if you are anemic or not by simply analyzing a photo of your fingernails.

The App to Detect Anemia

A team of researchers from Georgia Tech and Emory University in Atlanta – led by Dr. Wilbur Lam, who serves as a pediatric hematologist and bioengineer at the university, have developed the app in an effort to devise a non-invasive method to detect anemia in people.

All you need to do is take a photo of your fingernails using your smartphone. Once you do, the app analyzes the photograph and determines the hemoglobin level in your blood based on the color of your fingernails.

How It Works

Studies show that it is possible to determine if a person has anemia based on the pallor (pale coloration) of their fingernails, palm, or tongue.

The color of the fingernail, in particular, is an excellent indicator of hemoglobin level in the blood, since there are no pigment-producing cells in the nails. So, if a person’s fingernail is pale in color, it is more than likely that they are anemic.

The app is based on an algorithm written by Robert Mannino, who is a PhD student at the university. The algorithm scans the photo of your fingernails, compares it with a large number of fingernail photos, and determines your hemoglobin levels.

The research team led by Dr. Lam has created a huge database of photos, each of which contains an image of a person’s fingernails along with their hemoglobin level. Every time a new image is added to the database, the algorithm becomes that much smarter, since it has more reference material to base its decisions on.

Produces Accurate Results

To test the accuracy of the algorithm, Dr. Lam and his team gathered a group of 100 volunteers, some of whom were anemic and some others were perfectly healthy. Each volunteer was asked to download the app and take a photo of their fingernails. The results showed that the app had managed to detect anemia with 97% accuracy.

The researchers say that the app is as accurate as any of the diagnostic tools approved by the FDA to detect anemia. They also add that they are working on improving the accuracy of the algorithm – in an effort to make the app smarter.

Once the app is able to determine people’s hemoglobin levels with pinpoint accuracy, blood tests might no longer be needed.

Applications of the App

The app could be extremely beneficial for a large number of people around the world. Data shows that over two billion people in the world, most of whom are pregnant women and young children, suffer from anemia.

It is particularly prevalent in developing countries, where people do not have easy access to diagnostic labs. With this app, they can easily find out if they have anemia and get it treated.

Innovations like these remind us time and again that mobile applications are not restricted to the business end of the spectrum alone.

A large number of apps being developed these days are customer-centric in nature and benefit the end users directly in their day-to-day life. Given the growing number of smartphone users around the world, the trend is likely to continue in the coming days.