Low-cost portable device could perform onsite kidney disease testing

Presently, in order to check if someone has chronic kidney disease, a urine sample has to be sent off to a well-equipped lab for testing, which may take several days. A new portable device, however, could allow such testing to be performed onsite in remote communities.

Developed by scientists at Australia’s Flinders University, the gadget is a compact version of what’s known as an aggregation induced emission biosensor. It incorporates a Raspberry Pi microprocessor, digital camera and 7-inch touchscreen display, along with multiple LEDs which emit a specific wavelength of light – everything is housed within a 3D-printed body.

The testing process begins by adding a light-sensitive chemical reagent to a patient’s urine sample, then placing that sample within the device. As the urine is exposed to the LED light, the reagent reacts by causing any albumin present within the liquid to fluoresce.

The camera is used to measure the intensity of the fluorescence, which corresponds to albumin levels in the urine. Elevated albumin levels indicate that the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, as they are not filtering blood proteins as efficiently as they should be.

Clinicians view the data on the touchscreen. They can also store or share the information via an integrated Wi-Fi module, Micro SD card slot, or one of four USB ports. Power is supplied either by a wall outlet or an onboard lithium-polymer battery.

In tests performed on samples of artificial urine that contained albumin, the low-cost device was found to be similar in accuracy to more expensive lab-based equipment, which typically isn’t present is small communities or other remote locations.

“A reliable, portable device to accurately measure urine albumin could be rolled out to point-of-care testing sites in the community to reduce the need for patients with chronic kidney disease to regularly visit a hospital or clinic,” said Prof. Karen Reynolds, co-author of the study. “It will also help early detection of kidney disease which is imperative for early intervention to slow its progression.”

A paper on the research – which is being led by Prof. Youhong Tang – was recently published in the journal Materials Chemistry Frontiers.

Source: Flinders University

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