One of the most severe side-effects suffered by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments is a depressed white blood cell count. These cells are responsible for fighting infections, which means that these patients, already weakened by cancer, are left exposed to other illnesses. If the white blood cell count is very low, the patient will have a high risk of contracting infections and may not be strong enough to withstand another round of chemotherapy. This makes it extremely important to monitor the exact volume of these cells in the bloodstream. To this end, the young, Spanish innovator Carlos Castro has developed Leuko, a device capable of determining the white blood cell count through the analysis of a video of the blood stream taken through the patient´s skin, without the need for a more invasive blood test.
This young scientist from León (Spain) completed his doctorate studies at the Technical University of Madrid where he specialized in the development of biomedical image processing algorithms. When his roommate was diagnosed with lymphoma, he became aware of the importance of the control of the white blood cell count during cancer treatments and how impractical it is to depend on blood tests and their subsequent analysis by specialists. Thus he decided to channel his experience into the development of Leuko, which analyses the blood flow in the superficial capillaries located beneath our fingernails.
The first prototype has been used in clinical trials at the Fuenlabrada Hospital in Madrid (Spain) with patients of the general medicine ward and the results have been positive. The second prototype is being analyzed at the General Hospital of Massachusetts (USA) in patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Upon finalizing his doctorate, Castro received a grant from the M+Visión consortium, an initiative by the Community of Madrid in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, EEUU), which allowed him to work on the development of Leuko at the Research Laboratory of Electronics del MIT. He also received financing from the University of Boston´s Center of Future Technologies in Cancer Care and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation (both based in the U.S.).