Skip to Content
77 Mass Ave

Cell monitor

Monitor can detect low levels of white blood cells in chemo patients.
June 27, 2018
MIT/The Leuko Project

During chemotherapy, a sharp drop in white blood cells leaves patients vulnerable to dangerous infections. In the US, one in six chemo patients is hospitalized with an infection—and about 7 percent of those infections prove fatal. Infected patients also have to miss their next chemotherapy dose, which sets back their cancer treatment.  

A team of researchers from MIT and the Technical University of Madrid, led by Research Laboratory of Electronics postdoc Carlos Castro-Gonzalez, has now developed a portable white-blood-cell monitor. The device could be used at home, without taking blood samples, to determine whether prophylactic antibiotics and drugs that promote growth of white blood cells are needed to ward off infections.

The tabletop prototype records video of blood cells flowing through capillaries just below the skin’s surface at the base of the fingernail. These capillaries are so narrow that white blood cells must squeeze through one at a time. That makes it easier for them to be seen by a wide-field microscope that emits blue light, which penetrates about 50 to 150 micrometers below the skin and is reflected back to a video camera.

In tests, three human assistants watched one minute of such video for each of 11 chemotherapy patients. They detected with 95 percent accuracy whether a patient’s white-cell levels were above or below the threshold of danger. The researchers have since developed a computer algorithm using AI and machine vision that can perform the same task automatically.

They’ve also launched Leuko, a startup that’s commercializing the technology.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.