California Researchers Develop Portable Smartphone Device for Kidney Tests


University of California researchers have developed a smartphone peripheral that helps people suffering from diabetes and chronic kidney problems, to self-monitor their health saving them frequent trips to the clinic.

The 150-gram field portable device has the ability to carry out kidney tests and transmit the data within seconds through a smartphone.

The lightweight device was developed in the research lab of Aydogan Ozcan, a professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and associate director of the California NanoSystems Institute.

The smartphone-based device can measure the levels of albumin in a patient's urine. The blood protein is seen as a sign of danger when found in urine. 

"Albumin testing is frequently done to assess kidney damage, especially for diabetes patients," Ozcan said. "This device provides an extremely convenient platform for chronic patients at home or in remote locations where cell phones work."

Ozcan's lab also developed the opto-mechanical phone attachment, disposable test tubes, Android app and software to transmit the data.

The research was published in August by the peer-reviewed journal Lab on a Chip.

According to the researchers, 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 then captures the fluorescent light after it passes through an additional lens.

An Android application then processes the raw image in less than one second and the device transmits the test results to an appropriate database or health care provider to measure the urine's albumin concentration. The whole test takes about just five minutes.

Ozcan said: "The urine samples are entirely kept isolated from the cellphone using custom-designed cuvettes that are disposable. In this regard, there is no liquid leakage to the cellphone body."

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