Dubai: Two technological innovations that can save lives of newborns, developed by the Shaikh Zayed Institute of Paediatric Surgical Innovations at the Children’s National Medical Centre (CNMC) in Washington DC, are being used to detect congenital anomalies in newborns in Al Qasimi Hospital, Sharjah.

The UAE Ministry of Health signed a Memorandum of Understanding with CNMC to be able to share these life-saving technological innovations on the sidelines of the Arab Health Congress, announced Yousuf Mohammad Al Serkal, assistant undersecretary of hospitals sector at the ministry.

The first innovation is an app that detects Downs’ syndrome and other syndromes by studying minute facial features in newborns.

Marius George Linguararu, principal investigator of Shaikh Zayed Institute, explained: “The human face has thousands of facial expressions. This simple app uses the facial recognition technology to map a newborn’s face. There are many early facial markers that can diagnose congenital diseases such as Down’s Syndrome, Edward’s and William’s syndromes and even predict cardiac diseases. By studying these images, we can predict the disease and an early intervention can prepare the parents, prompt a surgical or oral medicine solution, prolong the life of a child with proper care and medication. Until the early ’70s, the life of a child diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome was only up to 10 years. Now it is possible for a child with this condition to live until the age of 60. This technology is being used at Al Qasimi Hospital and the data transmitted to us has been instrumental in early action.”

The other innovation is the heart murmur detection device. Dr Raj Shekhar, from CNMC, explained: “A heart murmur is an ‘extra’ sound riding over the ‘lub-dub’ sound of a beating heart. Fortunately, most heart murmurs in children are innocent. Pathological murmurs, on the other hand, are the murmurs caused by true heart defects. Missing a pathological murmur can have serious consequences, including morbidity and mortality,” he said.

Dr Shekhar explained the working of the device in simple terms. “The heart murmur device technology is both novel hardware and software. The device converts a standard stethoscope into a digital one by plugging it without the earpiece into a smartphone. Next, a signal processing algorithm [technique] developed by our team is used to distinguish whether the murmur is innocent [meaning normal] or not. The algorithm takes less than a minute to identify a murmur and is being accelerated to execute in near real-time [a few seconds].”

Dr Kurt De Newman, president and CEO of CNMC, expressed hope that these innovations would help in timely intervention to attend to serious congenital anomalies in babies born in the UAE.