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Researchers Invent Portable Device for Common Kidney Tests

Device attaches to smartphone, provides instant results (August 22)

A lightweight and field-portable device invented at the University of California–Los Angeles that conducts kidney tests and transmits data through a smartphone attachment may significantly reduce the need for frequent office visits by people with diabetes and others with chronic kidney ailments.

Weighing about one-third of a pound, the gadget can determine levels of albumin in the patient’s urine and transmit the results within seconds. Albumin is a protein in blood that is a sign of danger when found in urine.

The researchers also developed the opto-mechanical phone attachment, disposable test tubes, Android app, and software to transmit the data. The research was published in the journal Lab on a Chip.

The new device projects beams of visible light through two small fluorescent tubes attached to the device, one containing a control liquid and the other a urine sample mixed with fluorescent dyes. The smartphone camera captures the fluorescent light after it passes through an additional lens.

An Android application then processes the raw images in less than 1 second, and the device transmits the test results to a database or health care provider. The test, which measures the albumin concentration in urine, is accurate to within less than 10 mcg/mL, according to the research &mdsh; well within accepted clinical standards used in diagnosing conditions such as microalbuminuria.

The time it takes to conduct a test, including preparation of a sample using a small syringe to inject the urine into a fluorescent tube, is about 5 minutes. The investigators estimate that the device could be produced commercially for $50 to $100 per unit.

Source: UCLA; August 22, 2013.

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