A simple smile for a selfie could be all it needs to save your life.
The University of Washington have developed BiliScreen, an app that scans the whites of your eyes for jaundice or yellowing – both of which can be early symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
“The eyes are a really interesting gateway into the body,” said Shwetak Patel, a professor at the Washington Research Foundation. “Sclera (whites) can tell you how much bilirubin is in your blood. “Our question was: Could we capture some of these changes that might lead to earlier detection with a selfie?”
The app uses specifically designed paper glasses that can be printed either with colourful squares or on a 3D printed box. This allows the app to recognise colours and calibrate the images.
The user then takes a selfie of their eyes using the camera on their smartphone, which the app then scans to determine how white the eyes are in order to estimate levels of bilirubin.
Bilirubin is the waste product the body creates as it breaks down haemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells and used to transport oxygen around the blood. Bilirubin is normally cleared by the liver but disease or other health problems can stop this from happening.
Impressively, the app was found to be 90% correct with the 70 participants who took part in the study.
“Pancreatic cancer is a terrible disease with no effective screening right now. Our goal is to have more people who are unfortunate enough to get pancreatic cancer to be fortunate enough to catch it in time to have surgery that gives them a better chance of survival.” said study co-author Dr. Jim Taylor.