Image Processing Algorithm to Extract White Blood Cell Counts from Non-invasive, In Vivo, Time-lapse Images of Nailfold Capillaries

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Aurelien Bourquard
The Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), MIT
Carlos Castro-Gonzalez
The Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), MIT
Ian Butterworth
The Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), MIT
Alvaro Sanchez-Ferro
The Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), MIT
Luca Giancardo
The Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), MIT
Managed By
Ben Rockney
MIT Technology Licensing Officer
Patent Protection

Systems, Apparatus, and Methods for Analyzing Blood Cell Dynamics

US Patent Pending US 2016-0148038

Systems, Apparatus, and Methods for Analyzing Blood Cell Dynamics

PCT Patent Application WO 2016-086023
Analysis of white Blood Cell Dynamics in Nailfold Capillaries
IEEE Enginnering in Medicine and Biology conference, August, 2015


Non-invasive monitoring of white blood cell (WBC) counts for immune system monitoring

Problem Addressed

In current practice, WBC counts require visits to healthcare centers, blood draws, and lab work involving specialized devices, technicians, reagents and potential biohazards.  This invention presents a non-invasive technique with a low-cost, portable, semi-automatic optical equipment to get WBC counts which will allow more frequent monitoring, reduced visits to clinics, and access to areas without lab facilities or reagents supplies. 


White blood cell count is a relevant physiological parameter for the diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of several conditions including bacterial and viral infections, and chemotherapy.  Exploiting the optical properties of WBCs, seen as gaps or moving particles in capillary images, and using a portable, inexpensive optical device called a capillaroscope, this invention presents an algorithm which allows the detection of WBC events from capillaries with low quality images.  The algorithm offers a semi-automatic method to count visual gaps in the blood flow and determine their speed based on optical capillary images. With an innovative device called Igloo, a platform capable of holding a commercially available capillaroscope, this invention reduces the effects of variations in sample (nailfold) location and user technique.  The main asset of this invention is the ability to extract and analyze WBC events from relatively low resolution, low frame rate, and noisy video image data of microcirculation in capillaries.


  • Low-cost, portable, non-invasive technique
  • Much simpler to use for untrained people
  • Easier self-testing
  • More comfortable measurements that take less than 60 seconds
  • No biohazard from handling blood samples
  • Allows multispectral illumination of the sample
  • Provides adequate imaging no matter the size of the patient’s finger
  • Interfaces with existing commercial capillaroscopes, iPhone cameras or custom made optics