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Mount Allison Researcher’s Iron Tracker App Showcased On Parliament Hill

Mount Allison University computer science professor Andrew Hamilton-Wright has developed a mobile app, Iron Tracker, to help patients with a common genetic disorder manage their treatment. Working with colleague Gary Grewal at the University of Guelph, the pair recently created the app to help people with a condition called hemochromatosis. Now Iron Tracker is getting attention in Canada’s capital.

Hamilton-Wright and Grewal were invited to Parliament Hill this spring to attend meetings and present on their Iron Tracker application.

“The visit was organized in part by the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society, based in Vancouver,” says Hamilton-Wright. “We attended Senate as part of the event and were part of an awareness meeting held in the speakers’ room following. It was interesting to share our research project and also help educate people on this very common ailment.”

Hereditary hemochromatosis is a genetic, metabolic disorder that causes the body to absorb and retain too much iron. The iron overload can affect various organs and joints, and is potentially fatal is not treated. One of the key treatments for hemochromatosis is removing excess iron in the blood by drawing off a unit of blood up to twice a week initially, then every three to four months for the rest of the patient’s life.

The Iron Tracker bilingual app gives patients a single place to track appointments, treatment, and progress. Since its launch in October 2014, thousands of people from around the world have downloaded Iron Tracker. Hamilton-Wright and Grewal, who has hemochromatosis, have been working to develop additional features.

“There are clearly a bunch of things we can do with this app,” says Hamilton-Wright. “We are looking at potentially building tools for other conditions, like diabetes and blood sugar management.”

Once thought of as a rare condition, hemochromatosis is now the most common genetic disorder in Canada, affecting one in every 300 Canadians. It is particularly prevalent in those of Celtic descent.

“Raising awareness about this condition, and ways to help manage it, are important steps,” says Hamilton-Wright. “One of the senators we met with actually has hemochromatosis so the events in Ottawa were particularly relevant for him.”

Iron Tracker will continue assisting those with hemochromatosis globally, with an Italian version currently being developed. The app will also allow users to share their data, providing researchers with information that will help them learn more about this condition.

Find out more about the app (available free for both iPhone and Android devices) at irontracker.ca