Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a worldwide hematological disorder causing painful episodes, anemia, organ damage, stroke, and even deaths. It is more common in sub-Saharan Africa and other resource-limited countries. Conventional laboratory-based diagnostic methods for SCD are time-consuming, complex, and cannot be performed at point-of-care (POC) and home settings. Optical microscope-based classification and counting demands a significant amount of time, extensive setup, and cost along with the skilled human labor to distinguish the normal red blood cells (RBCs) from sickled cells. There is an unmet need to develop a POC and home-based test to diagnose and monitor SCD and reduce mortality in resource-limited settings. An early-stage and timely diagnosis of SCD can help in the effective management of the disease. In this article, we utilized a smartphone-based image acquisition method for capturing RBC images from the SCD patients in normoxia and hypoxia conditions. A computer algorithm is developed to differentiate RBCs from the patient's blood before and after cell sickling. Using the developed smartphone-based technique, we obtained similar percentage of sickle cells in blood samples as analyzed by conventional method (standard microscope). The developed method of testing demonstrates the potential utility of the smartphone-based test for reducing the overall cost of screening and management for SCD, thus increasing the practicality of smartphone-based screening technique for SCD in low-resource settings. Our setup does not require any special storage requirements. This is the characteristic advantage of our technique as compared to other hemoglobin-based POC diagnostic techniques.
Keywords: Microfluidics; Point-of-care diagnostics; SCD testing; Sickle cell diseases; and Smartphone-based biosensors.
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