People who suffer with diabetes and chronic kidney problems may soon have a new, portable device to help them self-monitor their health with less hassle. Researchers at the University of California have developed a smartphone peripheral that carries out tests and transmits data without constant visits to a clinic, which is a daily routine for some patients.
The main task of the 150-gram (5.3-oz) device is to measure levels in urine of a blood protein called albumin, the most commonly-used marker in kidney testing. The phone attachment is an opto-mechanical device that projects beams of visible light through two small fluorescent tubes attached to it. One tube contains a control liquid while the other contains the urine samples mixed with fluorescent dyes. The fluorescent light passes through an additional lens before being captured by the smartphone.
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The processing of the data is done very fast by an Android application that analyzes the raw images in less than one second, so the device can transmit the test results to a database or health care provider. Accuracy levels fall within accepted clinical standards, being accurate to within less than 10 micrograms per milliliter.
The new device was developed in the research lab of Aydogan Ozcan, a professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering at UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and associate director of the California NanoSystems Institute. Besides developing the light-emitting attachment, Ozan's lab also created the disposable test tubes, the Android app and software to transmit the data.
Ozan and his team predict that the whole procedure will take no longer than five minutes, including preparation of sample with a small syringe and injecting the urine into the fluorescent tube. It will be low-cost, too – the estimate is that it could be produced commercially for US$50 to $100 per unit.
The lab has additionally developed an iPhone app to work with the system.
Details of the research appeared this month in the journal Lab on a Chip.