LETU students develop device that tests iron levels without drawing blood

WEBXTRA: LETU students develop device that tests iron levels without drawing blood

LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - Imagine getting a blood test without drawing blood. Well, that’s exactly what a team of LeTourneau University Engineering students did for testing for an iron deficiency.

And it won them a national award.

Of the eight-man development team of the iron deficiency testing device, only Jacob Landreth remains. Not that there was a battle or anything, the others graduated in May, and according to Biomedical Engineering Professor Paul Leiffer:

“Five are employed, two are in graduate school,” he clarified.

So Jacob is left holding the bag; the Engineering World Health Competition wining bag.

“As far as this little device goes, is this one of the more innovative you’ve seen come through your classes?” I asked the professor.

“This is very innovative. It really is,” Leiffer agreed.

It’s innovative because it doesn’t hurt.

“There’s no poke, there’s no prick, it’s just a simple finger clip like you would find in any doctor’s office,” Landreth said.

What manner of sorcery is this?

“So it uses red and I.R. LEDs to send wavelengths of light through your finger. Your oxygenated blood will pick up the I.R. wavelengths and you non-oxygenated blood will pick up the red wavelengths,” Landreth explained.

Landreth says it took a lot of complex programming. The idea came from the Free Burma Rangers and they are a:

“Christian humanitarian agency over in Burma, started by a former Green Beret to help the people who were running for their lives basically,” Leiffer relayed.

Those people need medical care, and the iron deficiency test unit is self contained, rechargeable, non-invasive and generates no biomedical waste, and it:

“Tests for anemia, tests for diseases that would be indicated by low hemoglobin. Mostly anemia in developing nations because they don’t have food with nutrient rich sources,” Landreth said.

Which is pretty much why it won the competition. And it was the first time LeTourneau entered.

“If I were you I’d retire at this point,” I said to Professor Leiffer who replied with a laugh.

The Engineering World Health is a U.S. based non-profit group that works to improve health care in low income countries. LeTourneau’s device tested at 91 percent accuracy at the competition. LeTourneau beat out submissions from Clemson University and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

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