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Mobile App Studied to Measure Kidney Disease Anemia

Red blood cells illustration

(Arek Socha, Pixabay.

14 Apr. 2021. A smartphone app designed to non-invasively estimate hemoglobin levels is being assessed for its ability to measure anemia in chronic kidney disease patients. Sanguina Inc. in Atlanta, developer of the AnemoCheck Mobile app, is partnering on the project with drug maker AstraZeneca and NephroNet, an advocacy organization for kidney disease research.

AnemoCheck Mobile is an app that estimates hemoglobin levels in blood by analyzing photos taken by a smartphone camera of an individual’s fingernails. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body, and individuals with anemia have severely or continuously low hemoglobin levels. Conventional methods for measuring blood hemoglobin levels require blood samples, specialized equipment, or separate lab analysis, usually with a high cost in money and time.

The AmenoCheck Mobile app analyzes photos of an individual’s fingernails to estimate hemoglobin levels. Fingernails are an easily accessible part of the body’s surface without melanocytes, cells that provide coloring to the skin. As a result, any change in skin color can be attributed to changes in hemoglobin. Fingernail images taken by the camera are assessed with an algorithm developed by Sanguina, based on research by the app’s developers while at Emory University and Georgia Tech. The app calibrates skin tone levels for each individual, then can track even small changes in skin pallor under the nail over time. A December 2018 article in the journal Nature Communications describes the app and test results estimating hemoglobin levels compared to conventional blood tests.

Anemia common in people with chronic kidney disease

The collaboration with AstraZeneca and NephroNet aims to evaluate AmenoCheck Mobile for measuring anemia in people with chronic kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease is long-term damage often from diabetes or high blood pressure that prevents kidneys from functioning properly, thus impairing their filtering of blood. Anemia is a common complication of chronic kidney disease, particularly in more advanced cases. Sanguia cites data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showing some 39 million adults in the U.S. had chronic kidney disease in 2017, with about one in six individuals with chronic kidney disease also having anemia.

The study calls for Sanguia to train the AmenoCheck Mobile algorithm for people with chronic kidney disease. Then after the training, researchers will test the app’s hemoglobin estimates against conventional blood test measurements. The company says people in minority ethnic and racial communities will be recruited for the study, since they are at higher risk for chronic kidney disease.

“”This partnership,” says Sanguina CEO and founder, Erika Tyburski, in a company statement released through Cision, “will allow us to further test and demonstrate the unique capabilities of AnemoCheck Mobile so that we can empower patients with innovative solutions to help manage their health. As someone who has experienced anemia, I know personally the impact it has on quality of life and peace of mind. I look forward to helping improve other patients’ lives for the better.”

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