Careful screening of bilirubin levels in newborns is mandatory as per the American Academy of Paediatrics (2004), to reduce incidents of a type of brain damage called Kernicterus that can result from high levels of bilirubin in a baby’s blood. Although invasive capillary collection of blood and the subsequent biochemical test is considered a gold standard for jaundice detection in neonates, transcutaneous bilirubin measurement using non-invasive instruments has distinct added advantages.
The device called “AJO-Neo” is developed by Samir K Pal and his group at S N Bose National Centre For Basic Sciences (SNBNCBS), Kolkata, an autonomous research Institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. The institute is also hosting one of the Technical Research Centres (TRC) funded by DST and in scientific collaboration with Nil-Ratan Sircar (NRS) Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata. The device’s operation is based on non-contact and non-invasive spectrometry-based techniques for measurement of neonatal bilirubin level as an alternative of total serum bilirubin (TSB) test without limitations of other available bilirubin meters.
According to the SNBNCBS team’s study in NRS medical college, the newly developed device (AJO-Neo) is reliable in measuring bilirubin levels in preterm and term neonates irrespective of gestational or postnatal age, sex, risk factors, feeding behavior or skin color. The device is found to deliver an almost instantaneous report (about 10 seconds) to a concerned doctor sitting 10000 km away from the point of care. This is a significant achievement compared to the conventional “blood test” method, which may take over 4 hours to generate the report. It has to be noted that the detection of neonatal blood bilirubin (Hyperbilirubinemia) faster is extremely important for therapeutic management to avoid Kernicterus leading to Neuro-psychiatry problems in neonatal subjects. AJO-Neo also shows several advantages compared to other similar imported devices in the market.
The technology has been transferred by the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), an enterprise of DSIR, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India in the presence of Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST to a Vijayawada based company, Zyna Medtech . Maninder Singh Lal, chairman and managing director of the company, expressed satisfaction for getting the opportunity to participate in the commercialization of Indian technology, which has the potential to rule the global market.
“Development of convenient, non-invasive diagnostics based on a deep understanding of physicochemical sciences is happening at a faster pace around the world, and the institutions focused on basic sciences such as S N Bose National Centre For Basic Sciences at Kolkata, are thus compelling partners in technology and device development,” said Prof Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, DST.