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Subspecialties Imaging & Diagnostics

The Living Image

The omnipresent smartphone may have found a new calling. Researchers at Purdue University are testing a new way to assess blood hemoglobin (Hgb) levels, drawing on a technique known as super-resolution spectroscopy (SSR) to transform any phone into a hyperspectral imager – no hardware modifications or accessories necessary. The researchers hoped to find a noninvasive approach that could improve care in low- and middle-income countries where access to testing laboratories is limited. A patient simply has to pull down their inner eyelid to expose the small blood vessels underneath for the software to compute exact blood Hgb content. The sensing site is important. The easy accessibility and relatively uniform vasculature of the inner eyelid allow for optical reflectance spectroscopy, while the fact it is unaffected by confounding factors of pigmentation negates the need for personalized calibration. So how does the app compare to traditional blood tests? In a clinical study of 153 patients, prediction errors for the smartphone technique were promisingly within five to 10 percent of those measured with clinical laboratory blood. The team say the results support the feasibility of SSR in noninvasive blood Hgb measurements, with the possibility of extending the algorithm to different models of smartphones in the future. We speak to Young Kim, Associate Professor at the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University in Indiana, USA, to find out more about the app.

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About the Author

Phoebe Harkin

Associate Editor of The Ophthalmologist

I’ve always loved telling stories. So much so, I decided to make a job of it. I finished a Masters in Magazine Journalism and spent three years working as a creative copywriter before itchy feet sent me (back)packing. It took seven months and 13 countries, but I’m now happily settled on The Ophthalmologist, where I’m busy getting stuck into all things eyeballs.

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