A new £10 medical device that combines nanotechnology with a pregnancy test-style kit could allow day-to-day monitoring of kidney disease by patients in their own homes.
Kidney dysfunction places suffers at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and acute kidney injury. Every day, 19 people in the UK are diagnosed with kidney failure, with dialysis treatment for each of those awaiting a transplant costing the NHS over £25,000 per year. As a whole, kidney disease currently costs the NHS over £1.4 billion – more than breast, lung, colon and skin cancer combined.
At present, the progress of kidney conditions is monitored through regular testing of urine. However, these tests can’t be carried out at the point of care – instead, the sample must be sent to a laboratory by a GP or nurse, with a wait of several days for the results.
Created by Bio Nano Consulting, a company jointly owned by Imperial College London and University College London, the new device – called quantitative electrochemical lateral flow assay (QELFA) – uses nanoparticles to determine the exact amount of protein in a patient’s urine. The device is dipped into a urine sample, giving a result as an exact number.
The QELFA test can be used by a patient at home, and gives a result in seconds. It can also transmit the protein level to the patient’s surgery via mobile technology for monitoring by health professionals.
‘Like a glucose monitor, QELFA is quick and non-invasive,’ said Dr Paulo Actis, Bio Nano Consulting consultant and project manager. ‘Over the next 18 months we will be taking the device from the laboratory to the prototype stage. Its development fits in well with the NHS five-year plan which involves decentralising medicine and letting patients have more control over their own health, as well as helping to reduce the workload for testing laboratories.’
QELFA recently won a Smart award from Innovate UK. It was developed alongside clinicians at the Royal Free Hospital, and further work on the commercialisation of the device is being supervised by professor Tony Cass of Imperial College, whose work led to the development of the first electronic blood glucose measuring system.