In what can be termed as a significant breakthrough in the field of science and technology, a smartphone can now be converted into at-home kidney testing device.

Scientists claim that they have developed a light weight (about one-third of a pound) portable gadget that plugs into the smartphone and transmits data through the attachment and gives instant results.

Developed by researchers from University of California- Los Angeles(UCLA) and California NanoSystems Institute, the smartphone-based device can reveal levels of albumin in the patient”s urine and process the results within seconds. Albumin is a protein in blood that heralds danger when found in urine.

People suffering from diabetes or kidney diseases sometimes have to provide multiple samples of fluid, to monitor their health.

“Albumin testing is frequently done to assess kidney damage, especially for diabetes patients. This device provides an extremely convenient platform for chronic patients at home or in remote locations where cell phones work,” said Aydogan Ozcan, a professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering at UCLA.

A powerful diagnostic tool
The researchers have also developed the opto-mechanical phone attachment, disposable test tubes, Android app and software to process the data.

The working of the new device is fairly simple. It has two small tubes one containing a control liquid and the other for urine sample mixed with fluorescent dyes. The gadget shoots beams of visible light through the tubes which are in turn captured by smartphone camera after it passes through an additional lens.

An Android application then processes the data in less than a second and the analysis is then sent to the health care provider. According to a news release, the device has the potential to detect albumin levels with accuracy within 10 micrograms per millilitre.

The time it takes to conduct a test, including preparation is about five minutes. Researchers estimate that the cost of the device could be around $50 to $100 per unit.

The research was published in the journal Lab on a Chip.

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