students in lab
Photo: Charlie Dawes

The World Health Organization has targeted reducing anemia 50% among pregnant women by 2025 as one of its five primary global nutrition targets. But, when it comes to a health issue affects about a half a billion reproductive-age women worldwide, where do you begin?

One Temple Engineering Senior Design team approached the issue practically, looking at cost and point of care, particularly in low-resource environments.

Working with Assistant Professor Chetan Patil, bioengineering students Shreyas Chandragiri, Paul Gehret, Kyle Jezler and Seth McBride are modifying existing technology to help measure hemoglobin saturation, key for diagnosing anemia.

"Currently, low-resource regions suffer from available technology being too expensive, invasive or inaccurate," Jezler said. The team is looking to check those boxes by modifying currently-available technology in an affordable, non-invasive way.

"We are taking a pulse oximeter, which normally measures oxygen, and altering the hardware to make it sensitive to hemoglobin concentration," Jezler added.

To verify product performance in the absence of clinical trials, the team designed a pulsatile phantom-based model meant to mimic the properties of a patient. A wearable finger-based probe uses optical sensors to monitor changes in hemoglobin concentration through an algorithm. This is a departure from currently-available inexpensive testing by using a hemoglobin color scale.

For scale, typical testing leverages medical devices and technicians to run them, sending costs into the tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, the invasive nature of the blood draws can compound the pain for a patient.

"One of the symptoms of anemia is an increased susceptibility to bleeding, and to bruising in general," Chandragiri said. "Also, a big problem is timing. There's a delay in treatment because you can't take these measurements at point of care."

"We hope to do this for under $10 where hematology analyzers are in the thousands," Gehret said. "It's great to go through the whole product development cycle and getting hands-on to create something."

The group is currently plotting next steps, including possible clinical trials as well as handing-off to a new senior design team to continue development.

See the full slate of this semester's Senior Design teams when they present at Senior Design Presentation Day later this month.