Smartphone App to Detect Anemia Quickly and Painlessly Co-Developed by Georgia CTSA Innovation Catalyst Director

A smartphone app available early next year could dramatically improve the quality of life of chronic anemia patients. Anemia affects an estimated one in three people worldwide who currently require an expensive and invasive complete blood count to monitor their disease and inform their treatment. Researchers at Children's, Emory University, and Georgia Tech have introduced non-invasive, on-demand diagnostics that may replace these laboratory tests using only a smartphone app.

This home-based, self-test method was developed by Rob Mannino, PhD and Georgia CTSA Innovation Catalyst Director Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD. Mannino and colleague Erika Tyburski were named this week to the 2020 Forbes '30 Under 30' list in Healthcare for their work with Lam as trainees in developing wellness tools for measuring hemoglobin levels for anemia management and other blood disorders.

Dr. Lam explains, "The anemia app will be a game changer because it allows anyone to screen themselves for anemia with only their smartphone, anywhere, anytime. No need for a blood draw, no need to purchase or obtain extra attachments to their phone. Simply download an app, click a photo of the fingernails, and the approximate blood hemoglobin level is displayed instantaneously."

The app, AnemoCheck Mobile, will be available in early 2020 to download from the App Store and Google Play. When discussing who should download the anemia app, Dr. Lam confirms, "This app can be used by any healthy person as we are all at risk for anemia at some point in our lives – babies, young children, women of childbearing age, pregnant women, athletes, people on strict diets, and the elderly. In addition, patients with chronic diseases or cancer are, by definition, at risk for anemia as well and this app could empower them to control at least one aspect of their healthcare and improve their quality of life."

Lam and Mannino recently presented the research team's abstract, 'Smartphone-based system for non-invasive, quantitative diagnosis of anemia' at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) Discoveries in Technology forum in Bethesda, MD. Following their presentation, NIBIB Director Bruce Tromberg, PhD, a photonics expert, demonstrated the anemia app to congressional staffers.

Additional information about the research can be found online in the paper published on December 4, 2018, by Nature Communications. This anemia app paper was one of the top 25 life sciences articles read in Nature Communications in 2018.

Financial support for this work was provided by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship DGE-1650044 (to R.G.M.), a National Institutes of Health NIBIB Grant 1R21EB025646-01, NIBIB Machine Learning Supplement 3R21EB025646-01S1, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health Grant (UL1TR002378 to W.A.L. and R.G.M.) and the 2017 Massachusetts General Hospital Primary Care Competition Prize. Also, this work was performed in part at the Georgia Tech Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology, a member of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure, which is supported by NSF ECCS (1542174).

The Anemocheck App technology was developed by the hematology bioengineering laboratory of Georgia CTSA Innovation Catalyst Director Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD. Dr. Lam is supported by the Georgia Clinical & Translational Science Alliance (Georgia CTSA) Innovation Catalyst program. Innovation Catalyst accelerates clinical translational of novel health technologies by educating and providing CTSA investigators with entrepreneurship and commercialization resources.

The Georgia CTSA is a statewide partnership between Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of Georgia and is one of over 60 in a national consortium striving to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The consortium, funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the National Institutes of Health's Clinical and Translational Science Awards, shares a common vision to translate laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, engage communities in clinical research efforts, and train the next generation of clinical investigators.