Indian Scientists Create Portable Diagnostic Kit For Detecting Sickle Cell Anemia

Indian Scientists Create Portable Diagnostic Kit For Detecting Sickle Cell Anemia

Indian scientists have now developed a portable and affordable kit which harnesses technology that powers advanced mobile phones. This kit is a lab-on-a-chip detection system for sickle cell anemia. This is a common inherited blood disorder which is prevalent in central as well as south India.

Debjani Paul and her team Ninand Mehendale and Ammar Jagirdar are the pioneers from the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay who seek to "make the most" of the current mobile phone revolution and use their talent and skill to create reasonably priced diagnostic kits for sickle cell anemia. The sickle cell gene is most commonly found in tribals in remote regions of states such as Odisha, MP, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.

While there is no specific cure for sickle cell anemia, treatment has been found to lower anemia and its complications and this can lead to abnormal sickle or crescent shaped RBCs that block blood flow through blood vessels. The researchers will engineer a microfluidic chip with mobile phone based diagnostic platform which can be used by health workers possessing basic medical knowledge. This is especially useful for remote or isolated areas where rural populations lack access to sophisticated diagnostic equipment.

Around 5% of children impacted by sickle cell disease die before they reach two years of age and Paul has discussed how the "disease is detected in clinical settings by techniques such as hemoglobin electrophoresis, high-performance liquid chromatography, etc. These techniques are still not affordable or accessible to the affected population".

The diagnostic procedures that have to be followed so far are used by clinically trained personnel in specially equipped labs according to Paul. "The kit is something that we propose to develop over the next 18 months," she said. The project has been proposed by Paul and her students at IIT-B's Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering and it has received a Grand Challenges Explorations grant this June so that the project can be successfully completed

The grants are for fostering innovation that can improve health in developing nations. The current project has been funded through collaboration by the Gates Foundation along with BIRAC ( Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council) through an an IKP Knowledge Park in Telangana.

The kit will also include a chip with tiny channels. This kit makes use of microfluidics which is a science that involves liquid flow in channels thinner than human hair. These channels can trap blood samples in such saws that the sickle shape of the RBC is preserved for the next step which involves detection of the modified cellphone camera and special software.
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