One of the major side effects of chemotherapy is a sharp drop in white blood cells, which leaves patients vulnerable to dangerous infections. MIT researchers have now developed a portable device that could be used to monitor patients’ white blood cell levels at home, without taking blood samples.
Such a device could prevent thousands of infections every year among chemotherapy patients, the researchers say. Their tabletop prototype records video of blood cells flowing through capillaries just below the surface of the skin at the base of the fingernail. A computer algorithm can analyze the images to determine if white blood cell levels are below the threshold that doctors consider dangerous.
The research was funded by the NIH’s Center for Future Technologies in Cancer Care, MIT’s Deshpande Center, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation at BU, the Madrid-MIT M+Vision Consortium, the EU FP7-PEOPLE-2011-COFUND Program, Fundación Ramón Areces, the MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), and the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund.