Rethinking Healthcare

New automated blood counter 'imitates humans'

New automated blood counter 'imitates humans'

Posting in Technology

HemaCAM counts blood cells and assesses the abnormalities, speeding up the diagnoses of autoimmune diseases.

A German applied research organization has launched a new automated device for counting blood cells that promises to reduce the amount of time scientists spend behind the microscope.

White blood cell counts are important indicators for disorders such as inflammations, allergies, and autoimmune diseases. Currently, when a blood count is determined to be abnormal (with the help of automated blood counters), assessing the abnormal cells is still a manual process.

HemaCAM is a new computer-assisted blood cell analysis system with a camera that looks into a microscope and an image processing software that automatically analyzes abnormal blood smears.

A scientist only needs to check the results of the individually documented abnormal cells, according to the researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Germany, which developed the product in collaboration with Horn Imaging GmbH.

“The core idea was to combine a microscope with digital image processing,” says Christian Münzemeyer, the manager for medical image processing.

Current automated blood counters, such as Siemens’s ADVIA 120 Hematology System, uses a method called flow cytometry, where sensors count the number of cells flowing through a tube. According to Münzemeyer, HemaCAM’s software documents individual abnormal cells, enlarges them up to 100 times, and provides classification suggestions.

“HemaCAM imitates humans,” he adds.

After six years of development, HemaCAM was marketed and installed in specialist labs in Europe beginning in October. The new diagnostic system will be presented at the MEDICA 2010 trade fair next week in Düsseldorf. There, researchers hope to discuss further improvements, such as software for analyzing red blood cells that could help diagnose symptoms like anemia and liver or kidney damage.

Image: HemaCAM/Horn Imaging GmbH

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure