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A New Approach to Hemoglobin Analysis

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Analyzing the levels of hemoglobin in the blood can play a key role in the diagnosis of anemia, a condition which often begins with non-specific symptoms such as fatigue and weakness, but can lead to more serious health implications if the underlying causes are left untreated. To overcome some of the limitations of conventional methods of hemoglobin analysis, researchers from the University of Washington have recently developed a new approach utilizing microfluidics.

We spoke to Nikita Taparia, the paper's lead author and a doctoral candidate in the Snaidecki lab at the University of Washington, to learn more about the new approach and some of the advantages it offers.

What are some of the limitations of conventional methods of hemoglobin analysis?

The current methods to measure hemoglobin are more geared for a medical setting. This isn't necessarily the best approach in the field and in places that actually need more surveillance. Thus, many other new techniques have focused on methods that can be implemented in the field, at an affordable price with as little expertise as possible.

Can you tell us about the microfluidic approach you have recently developed? What is the significance of removing the need for haemolysis?

The paper illustrates the ability to detect hemoglobin in a microfluidic card without hemolysis. This is important more so because other microfluidic cards are further in development and testing stages that look for disease such as malaria. With our method, these other blood diagnostic chips can easily adapt their design to allow for hemoglobin measurement in anemic blood.

What advantages does it offer, and what makes it well suited for use in low-resource areas?

As mentioned before, any current blood diagnostic method that requires whole blood in a microfluidic device can easily take our method and incorporate it into their system. Often times detection through hemoglobin alone is not enough to truly track the burden of anemia. It is necessary to not only track anemia but how it manifests -- malaria, sickle cell, iron deficiency, etc. This allows those with a microfluidic device that tracks one of these more specific diseases, to now also determine the level anemia present. It has the potential of being very cheap and compact, with minimal training, making it perfect for low-resource areas.

Can you tell us about any future developments you have planned?

Our lab works with blood in a microfluidic setting so we may incorporate this detection method to add anemia detection but as of now, we are focused on other blood research.

Nikita Taparia was speaking to Anna MacDonald, Editor for Technology Networks.