Categories: Tech News

New technology aims to reduce racial disparities in blood tests

A team led by a bioengineering professor at the University of Texas at Arlington and an Austin entrepreneur has published key findings in the British Medical Journal Innovations which illustrate how a new device measures hemoglobin more accurately in people with darker skin pigmentation.

George Alexandrakis, professor of bioengineering at UT Arlington and Dr. Vinoop Daggubati of Shani Biotechnologies LLC conducted a clinical study at UT Arlington with 16 healthy volunteers and measured their hemoglobin and oxygen content using the newly developed technology. The team compared the results with those obtained using a commercially available pulse oximeter for accuracy and variability.

Racial disparities in hemoglobin and blood oxygen measurements are an urgent public health problem. Currently available devices are inaccurate on people with dark skin. The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a safety communication and has organized an advisory committee meeting on November 1, 2022 to discuss this issue in depth.

The results of the UTA team’s research are encouraging, and the new technology has enormous potential to address this unmet clinical need. Alexandrakis said his intention is to develop a wearable device, such as a watch or monitor, that reads blood through the skin.

Most currently available methods for monitoring hemoglobin require blood samples and expensive equipment. Available non-invasive spectroscopic methods have a high degree of variability and are often inaccurate in people of color due to differences in skin melanin. There is a significant unmet need for a reliable, noninvasive device to estimate hemoglobin, regardless of skin color.

Pulse oximeters available today use red infrared light and are based on technology first designed more than 50 years ago. Instead, the team’s device is based on the spectroscopic properties of hemoglobin in the blue-green light spectrum.

“We used green-blue light and successfully tested the device in preclinical and clinical studies,” Daggubati said. “Our group has addressed the issues related to shorter wavelength, light scattering, and the impact of skin melanin. The scientific community should open their minds to the concept of green light for these measures. The Shani device has great potential to eliminate this racial disparity.”


University of Texas at Arlington


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