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Portable Kidney Test Device with Smartphone App Developed

Aydogan Ozcan (UCLA)

Aydogan Ozcan (UCLA)

Biomedical engineers at University of California in Los Angeles invented a portable device that tests urine for kidney damage and transmits the results via a smartphone attachment. The smartphone transmission system is described online in an advance issue of the journal Lab on a Chip (paid subscription required).

The lab of UCLA engineering professor Aydogan Ozcan built both the kidney test and smartphone transmission devices. The kidney test device measures levels of albumin in the patient’s urine. Albumin is a protein found in the blood, but a healthy kidney does not let albumin pass into the urine. A damaged kidney, however, lets some albumin pass through, thus the presence of albumin in urine is an indicator of kidney damage.

People at risk of kidney damage, such as diabetes patients, test regularly for albumin and thus take many fluid samples. The device built by Ozcan and colleagues weighs about one-third of a pound and can transmit the results in a matter of seconds.With the smartphone-based attachment, the test can be done at home or other remote location rather than traveling to or sending the sample to a lab for analysis.

The UCLA researchers estimate the time needed to conduct the test with the device at about five minutes. The patient uses a syringe to transfer some of the urine sample to a small fluorescent tube, which is mixed with fluorescent dyes. The test device then projects beams of light through the fluorescent tube with the urine sample and a second tube with a control liquid.

The smartphone’s camera, with a special lens attachment, captures the fluorescent light after exposure to the liquids. An Android software program processes the the captured images and transmits the data to the health care provider or other authorized recipient. The lab also wrote an iPhone version.

The researchers say the test is accurate to within tolerances of less than 10 micrograms per milliliter, which is within accepted clinical standards used in diagnosing kidney conditions. Ozcan estimates the device can be produced commercially for $50 to $100 per unit.

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