An associate professor at Mount Allison University, in Sackville, N.B., has co-created an app that helps people manage the most common genetic disorder in Canada.

Hemochromatosis is a condition that leads to too much iron in the body, which can cause a host of serious health problems.

“If there is too much iron, it gets converted to a long term systemic form and is stored in the organs of the body,” says Andrew Hamilton-Wright, an associate professor of computer science at Mount Allison University. “So it will end up in the heart, it will end up in the liver, it will actually end up in the tendons.”

Hamilton-Wright says roughly one in 300 Canadians of northern European ancestry have the condition. However, for people of Celtic descent, of which there are thousands in the Maritimes, the rate is higher.

“I have seen numbers as high as one in seven for people who have ancestry from Ireland, or from Scotland, or north of England,” says Hamilton-Wright.

Hamilton-Wright, along with a colleague in Ontario, have created an app to help manage life with Hemochromatosis.

The app allows you to track iron levels and record medical appointments and observe progress over time.

Hamilton-Wright says there are even bigger benefits from the app, voluntary data collection.

“We now have this audience of the thousands of people who have downloaded the app and are using the app, hopefully, to improve their treatment,” says Hamilton-Wright. “(Hopefully) some fraction of those people will be willing to share the data with us.”

Ian Hilley, president of the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society, says the ability to collect user information has huge implications.

“We might be able to advocate for better services, better support, better partnerships with the Canadian Blood Services, so that is why it would be useful to use the mobile phones and the app as a source of collection information,” says Hilley.

The app creator says, for him, it’s also about awareness.

“There is really no danger to getting tested, it’s a simple blood test,” says Hamilton-Wright.

The data collection extension of the app will be rolled out over the next few months.