Monday, July 29, 2013

Blood Talk from Inner Space.....

I am trying to remember the first time I did a blood test as a child. And as good as my memory is , I simply cannot remember

Doctors in my childhood, learnt more from shining torches in our mouths, examining the color and surface of our tongues, lightly hammering our knees, pressing oedemic skin , and  shaking their heads or nodding them depending on the color of our eye and nails. Listening to pulses, blood flow and heartbeats revealed even more secrets to them.

Somewhere in the latter part of my teenage,  I realized what pathological laboratories did.  I went to the US for graduate studies, and in those days (circa 1969) , believe it or not, you needed to do a chest X-ray, Urine and stool tests, and some blood tests from "approved " doctors  before you applied for a visa. You then carried the stuff with you when you actually relocated.  This was my first tangle with blood and tests.

Today, it is a great business. The shining torches, and protruding tongues have given way to very specific blood tests, that tell you, how badly off you are, despite having the very best that life can offer you. There are acceptable and unacceptable ranges, you get traumatized over a one point drop in your haemoglobin and fifty point rise in your LDL.

And somewhere , away from the metros, in small towns and rural areas,  girls who are married off early, bear child after child in their family's quest for a male, and bit by bit destroy their own health.  The best of diet for the sons, unaffordability of necessities of life today , and stark unavailability of medical care in some cases. And you have an India where  the prevalence of anemia in pregnancy is almost 40-80%, the South East Asian  prevalence, according to WHO being 56%.

 About 4-16% of maternal deaths are due to anemia.  And besides being a risk factor for the mother throughout the pregnancy,  infants with anemia often exhibit prematurity, low birth weight, low Apgar scores, lower intellectual development , and so often, failure to thrive.  And should they thrive, such infants are at greater risk for cardiac problems as adults .    

And so it pleased me no end to hear Myshkin Ingawale at the TEDex talks 2012 .

Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

This guy,  an engineer  by training, a researcher from MIT  by profession, and an open an perceptive mind, thanks to his bringing up, combined facets of all these, and realized  on a visit to India, that it isn't enough for the technology to be smart , it has to be appropriate  for the situation. Listen to him :   

Here is a guy, who observed and studied the facilities (or the lack of them) available to a rural expecting mother. Brainstormed about them with like minded folks who strove together for an answer, and came up with a contraption that measures heartbeat, pulse and Hb by simply having the patient insert a finger into an enclosure.  No pricks, no pokes, no trauma of the emerging red..

Was HB  measuring not possible earlier ? Of course it was. But it needed trained staff to do blood pricks, chemistry knowledge, make blood smears, and analysis.  Many rural NGO's today work in maternal and neonatal health, and have trained 'Dais" that visit households and advise. Here was something simple they could carry with them and monitor the anemia and treat it. Without requiring a drop of blood.  It was that easy.  It took Myshkin and his team more than 32 trials and experiments before they succeeded, and he created his own company called Biosense  to promote this.

 This needs to be taken forward. Nay, it is begging to be allowed to go ahead.

Young  girls , in both rural and urban areas, need to be monitored for their haemoglobin content. With education made free for girls now, and more and more families realizing its importance, making such checks mandatory , in schools and even colleges,  would work wonders. Iron and folic acid supplementation can follow via improved existing systems where other NGO's could monitor quality of the medicines.

It might be a useful idea to investigate if stationary blood HB checking stations could be set up in the premises of , say, temples, and other religious places, frequented by women with families, often not allowed to go anywhere else, particularly in rural areas.  (I've never discovered the reason for weighing scales  for humans at railway stations; stations for checking HB make so much more sense. ).

Then I have suggestions for Biosense.

Newborn testing for blood thyroid values, has a bearing on the mental development of kids. Many babies are deficient coming as they do from areas with faulty iodine content in the soil and water (due to various reasons).  An untreated  hypothyroid  in a new born,  leads to developmental disabilities, and problems later. Even then , this test is NOT mandatory for newborns in India and the cost is currently prohibitive for the common man.  If Biosense can come up with a cheaper alternative to the existing testing technology, this would be like a gift from the heavens, for those who could be detected early, treated appropriately, and guaranteed  normal mental and physical milestones in their lives.

Another test I want Biosense to work on is the Vitamin D3 test . We wrongly think that being a tropical country, with people travelling to work  on foot and so on, we should be having a surfeit of Vitamin D3  in our bodies. Turns out, that thanks to atmospheric pollution levels,  various chemicals in our household cleaners, etc, our capacity to create D3 in the body has greatly reduced, This has a great bearing on the bone thinning in old age. On the other hand, indiscriminate augmenting of vitamin D3 in the body without testing is a very dangerous trend, followed by those who avoid getting tested because of the big cost involved. I hope Biosense comes up with something which can then be put up in little setups in banks and temples and libraries, which are places frequented by senior citizens.  Who can then check their own Vitamin D3.

Today having a smart technology is not enough.  It has to be geared to,  appropriate to, and  easy to handle, for  , say, a woman health worker, in a rural or urban area, given various cultural taboos, and societal restrictions, which will be some more time disappearing .      

Maybe the powers that be will then promulgate a Womens' Health Security Bill, that will provide these contraptions in large numbers across the country.      

I look forward to another TDX talk by Myshkin Ingawale an his team  in the foreseeable future.  Relating to neonatal/newborn TSH and Vitamin D3 for all

I wish these wonderful folks the best for their efforts ....

This entry submitted for the Indiblogger Franklin Templeton Investments - The idea Caravan Contest .





  1. You have suggested some interesting enhancements - I hope they can achieve a breakthrough in other areas of medical diagnosis and it comes within the reach of common people.

  2. Interesting ideas. Until I got into my mid-60s, I had little interest in what I could test at home but then things happened and i learned of the various testing options at home. We had a cuff type bp unit that my husband's mother had had before she died. I used it to avoid my doctor insisting on bp meds as every time I'd go in, the bp would be high. At home it was not-- white coat syndrome they call that. Eventually it was higher at home too and hence onto the meds but it avoided them for years. Then I found out about the finger tester for pulse rate, small and easy to carry around when hiking to keep track of that and oxygenation. The last piece of equipment was for testing blood sugar after mine was at the high end of okay and I wanted it lowered. I have since done that and test it or look at the other tools maybe once a month to be sure all is as it should be. Oh and I have the test strips to know if I have a urinary infection. Frankly I think these things are good as you said would be neat to have available at certain places to catch things before they turn problematic. The Vit D3 would be especially good because, as you said, that's one we need to keep track of for a lot of reason. So far I don't have anything that can do that-- short of going into the doctor's office.

    1. Rain, Thank you for the comprehensive comment ! My late mother used to have this white coat hypertension, and she did exactly what you did, till well into her late seventies and early eighties. I think her generation ate better, more organic and sensible food, as opposed to our fast convenience foods, and so didnt need so many checks and balances in the body to be measured. But I do hope that now that the science exists, Myshkin and his company could really come up with some revolutionary low cost inventions....Wishing you good health....!

  3. Oh yes
    I can relate to the white coat hypertension. BP never high at home or drugstore
    but always at doctor's office. Never one to go to the doctor much in the past.
    This has changed since I have an autoimmune disorder, sjogrens and inflammatory problem. Doing all I know to do and always bloodwork at doctors office and I do not like it....

  4. These are some interesting ideas Ugich..All the best for the contest..:)

  5. A very sensible blood talk. Btw I dread visiting doctors or going for a blood test.