Self-tracking with Dried Blood Spots
Viewpoint article by Thomas E. Gundersen, Vitas
In a recent publication, Sakhi et al. studied the feasibility of using self-sampled dried blood spots (DBS) as a substitute for blood samples collected by venipuncture in population studies . Invitations, instructions and DBS collection kits were sent to 4600 Norwegian women without prior notification. More than 70% returned the DBS cards, with a huge majority (93%) being packaged and shipped properly. Three quarters of the cards were filled with blood according to the instructions and the quality of samples was consistent with previous reports.
The successful use of dried blood spots was confirmed in a separate study by Food4Me (www.food4Me.org). In this EU FP7 funded research project, including 1600 participants, a similar approach was used to achieve the largest web-based, personal nutrition intervention study to date.
The findings by Sakhi et al. and results from Food4Me study indicate that DBS provide a low cost, effective and feasible alternative for biomarker analysis. Biomarkers, such as pulse and blood pressure, are already well established in self-tracking devices including activity bands, smart watches, and integrated health apps such as Apple Health. Currently, major efforts are being made to integrate blood glucose measurements into such devices. The coming megatrend of self-tracking would benefit hugely from other blood biomarkers obtained regularly at a personal level using, for example, dried blood spots.
For reliable nutrition and lifestyle advice, DBS analysis has to be linked with scientifically valid data and knowledge rules, such as those provided by Quisper, the server platform developed by QuaLiFY. Obtaining nutritional status and tracking changes in lifestyle biomarkers in response to eating habits and important lifestyle factors (e.g. exercise) will be instrumental in motivating individuals and documenting effects. Vitas, as a provider of both kits and DBS analysis, will link its services to Quisper and will provide academic institutions as well as companies with the opportunity to implement the same technology and services in their research and business.