£10 kidney failure test developed

Published: Tuesday 24th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Patients at risk of kidney failure could soon be identified using a £10 device similar to a pregnancy test.

A British company is developing a device which relies on nanotechnology to detect protein in the urine.

According to a new report, it could “revolutionise” the care of patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), which costs the NHS more than £1.4 billion a year.

An estimated one million people in the UK have undiagnosed CKD that causes no initial symptoms but can potentially lead to kidney failure or even death.

The “quantitative electrochemical lateral flow assay” (QELFA) uses a dip stick in the same way as a pregnancy test to look for protein in the urine.

London-based company Bio Nano Consulting is working on the device and expects to market it in the next three to five years. It is likely to cost around £10 – roughly the same as a pregnancy test.

The device could be designed to show a test result with a number display or colour change, or both, and to transmit it electronically to a GP or specialist.

Proteinuria – protein in the urine – is a hall mark of kidney disease and occurs when protein that should be retained by the body is allowed to leak out of the kidneys.

Using current technology, monitoring and testing for proteinuria is time consuming and costly.

The new device is highlighted in a report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME), Nanotechnology: The Societal Impact of the Invisible.

Nanotechnology involves manipulating amounts of substances so small that their usual properties are altered.

Silver, for instance, acquires potent anti-bacterial properties at nanoscale levels.

The report’s author Dr Helen Meese, head of materials at the IME, said: “Nanotechnology could revolutionise the way we live our lives – it can be used in everything from food and healthcare to electronics, clothing and cosmetics.

“But despite its 40 years in the public domain, the nanotechnology industry is still failing to engage with society in an open and clear way, and governments continue to lack impetus in committing to international regulation. The UK Government must provide more funding to ensure that the UK benefits fully from nanotechnology’s potential.

“The QELFA device is a brilliant example of what’s possible. Using an old technology like a pregnancy tester and combining it with nanotechnology, you have a device which could not only diagnose the million people in the UK who are unaware they have kidney disease, but also help doctors effectively monitor those undergoing treatment. It could also save the NHS millions of pounds a year.”

A spokesman for Bio Nano Consulting said a two-year development programme had started but no prototype device had yet been produced.

He expected it to reach the market in three to five years.

Published: Tuesday 24th February 2015 by The News Editor

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