06 April 2018

Measure your white blood cell count

One of the most important side effects of chemotherapy is a sharp decrease in the number of white blood cells in the blood. This makes the body susceptible to infections.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a portable device that allows patients to independently monitor the level of white blood cells in the blood at home. Its use does not require taking a blood sample.

As a rule, the interval between courses of chemotherapy is 21 days. At the end of each course, the number of white blood cells decreases sharply, then gradually increases until the beginning of the next course. Usually, a general blood test is performed before the start of the next course, although the most dangerous time is immediately after the end of treatment.

Low white blood cell count causes the inability of the body's immune system to resist infections. Pathogens that are not dangerous for a healthy organism in patients with immunodeficiency on the background of chemotherapy can cause generalized inflammation and even death.

Careful monitoring of the leukocyte level and timely prevention of its critical decline could prevent formidable infectious complications.

The device – the result of four years of work – will help to detect a critical decrease in the number of white blood cells in time and avoid dangerous infections. It produces a video recording of shaped blood elements passing through the surface capillaries at the base of the nail. By analyzing this information, a computer algorithm determines how close the number of white blood cells is to a given threshold level.

The device for self-monitoring the number of white blood cells consists of a wide-field microscope that emits blue light. It penetrates 50-150 micrometers through the skin and, reflecting, gets into the camera lens. The plate of the nail hole is so thin that it is possible to consider small capillaries through which leukocytes can pass one by one. This makes it easier to visualize and count them. The technology is unable to determine the exact number of white blood cells, it evaluates it qualitatively relative to the threshold – 500 neutrophils per microliter of blood.


The prototype was tested in a study involving 11 patients receiving chemotherapy drugs. The accuracy of the determination was 95%.

Researchers within the Leuko project continue to work on improving the software of the device in order to achieve more accurate and informative data and reduce the measurement time.

The presence of a non-invasive and simple way to analyze the number of white blood cells has exceptional prospects for cancer patients. It implements the principles of personalized medicine, allowing you to determine the optimal intervals between courses of chemotherapy for a particular patient, based on his state of health, and not relying on average norms.

Article by A. Bourquard et al. Non-invasive detection of severe neutropenia in chemotherapy patients by optical imaging of nailfold microcirculation is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Aminat Adzhieva, portal "Eternal Youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru based on MIT News: Monitor detects dangerously low white blood cell levels.

Found a typo? Select it and press ctrl + enter Print version