Gazelle Upgrade Will Improve Measuring Fetal Hemoglobin Levels

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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Hemex Health’s portable point-of-care device, Gazelle, is being enhanced to more precisely monitor fetal hemoglobin levels.

According to Hemex, this could be useful for monitoring people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are being treated with hydroxyurea. The company announced the software upgrade on May 8 —  World Thalassemia Day.

“We are excited to make this announcement on World Thalassemia Day to help raise awareness for severe blood disorders. Gazelle continues to deliver unprecedented capability to populations with a high prevalence of sickle cell and beta thalassemia,” Patti White, Hemex’s CEO, said in a press release.

Both SCD and thalassemia are genetic disorders that affect hemoglobin — the protein red blood cells use to shuttle oxygen through the bloodstream. In SCD, an abnormal form of the protein clumps in red blood cells, causing them to take on an unusual sickle-like shape that gives the disease its name. Thalassemia is a disorder wherein the body makes too little hemoglobin.

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Genetically Activating Fetal Hemoglobin May Be Promising SCD Therapy

The Gazelle device can be used to test for hemoglobin levels and abnormalities in a blood sample. Recent research has shown the device to be fast and accurate at diagnosing SCD.

Hydroxyurea is an oral medication that has been used to treat SCD in the U.S. for more than two decades. It works by boosting fetal hemoglobin levels.

Fetal hemoglobin, or HbF, is a form of hemoglobin normally produced during fetal development. Soon after birth, the body normally stops making HbF and begins producing another version of hemoglobin that’s less efficient at transporting oxygen than its fetal counterpart.

Boosting levels of HbF in people with SCD — where the adult version of hemoglobin does not function properly — can help prevent red blood cell sickling and improve oxygen transport in the bloodstream.

“Part of the monitoring protocol for patients on hydroxyurea involves tracking changes in HbF levels over time,” Catherine Segbefia, of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Ghana, said. “Having this capability at the point of care with Gazelle’s Hb Variant test will allow greater access to this therapy especially for those living in remote areas.”

A clinical study showed that HbF measurements taken with the Gazelle device were within 4.5% of results obtained with the current gold standard test used for measuring these levels, called high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Results from the study, conducted at the pediatric SCD Clinic at Korle Bu, are expected to be published later this year, according to Hemex.

“In addition to this HbF measurement improvement, additional features are planned for Gazelle that will improve healthcare for sickle cell and beta thalassemia patients who have not had access to this level of testing,” White said.