If you’re the parent of a preemie, you’ll be excited to learn about Neogest, a new app being developed by doctors at the University of Nottingham, which scans and collects photos of newborns born from 23 weeks to 44 weeks. Using these photos, the folks behind Neogest hope to save the lives of preemies born in developing countries—where many of the babies born early die because their true gestational age can’t be accurately determined.
Turns out that the closer doctors can pinpoint the exact gestational age of a preemie, the more likely it is that the baby will survive. NICU doctors can determine the age of a preemie by looking specifically at its feet: creases in the feet, much like rings in a tree trunk, are valuable dating tools. The eyes are another source from which a specialist can draw information; their shape and sharpness provide clues to a baby’s gestational age. In developing countries access to the top-of-the-line equipment used for determining a preemie’s age is limited. A crowd-sourced app like Neogest has the potential to provide doctors in these areas with an expanse of knowledge and photos, for context, within one click.
A preemie’s specific gestational age has a big impact on their treatment in the NICU. If they are born at less than 34 weeks, and haven’t learned how to suck yet, that’s important information for those caring for them. Or a baby’s gestational age may mean that they regulate temperature differently than a baby a few weeks older. By providing a low-tech way to determine gestational age for doctors without access to high-tech equipment—but who have a smartphone—more premature babies may be saved.