Simplified White Blood Cell Differential: An Inexpensive, Smartphone- and Paper-Based Blood Cell Count

Matthew V. Bills, Brandon T. Nguyen, Jeong Yeol Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Sorting and measuring blood by cell type is extremely valuable clinically and provides physicians with key information for diagnosing many different disease states including: leukemia, autoimmune disorders, and bacterial infections. Despite the value, the present methods are unnecessarily costly and inhibitive particularly in resource poor settings, as they require multiple steps of reagent and/or dye additions and subsequent rinsing followed by manual counting using a hemocytometer, or they require a bulky, expensive equipment such as a flow cytometer. While direct on-paper imaging has been considered challenging, paper substrate offers a strong potential to simplify such reagent/dye addition and rinsing. In this paper, three-layer paper-based device is developed to automate such reagent/dye addition and rinsing via capillary action, and separating white blood cells (WBCs) from whole blood samples. Direct on-paper imaging is demonstrated using a commercial microscope attachment to a smartphone coupled with a blue LED and 500 nm long pass optical filter. Image analysis is accomplished using an original MATLAB code, to evaluate the total WBC count, and differential WBC count, i.e., granulocytes (primarily neutrophils) versus agranulocytes (primarily lymphocytes). Only a finger-prick of whole blood is required for this assay. The total assay time from finger-prick to data collection is under five minutes. Comparison with a hemocytometry-based manual counting corroborates the accuracy and effectiveness of the proposed method. This approach could be potentially used to help make blood cell counting technologies more readily available, especially in resource poor and point-of-care settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8727409
Pages (from-to)7822-7828
Number of pages7
JournalIEEE Sensors Journal
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 15 2019


  • Acridine orange
  • blood count
  • cell identification
  • paper microfluidics
  • smartphone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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