Urine analysis has been used as an inexpensive diagnostic modality which can detect infectious diseases, diabetes, kidney disease and pregnancy, among others. It has become a standard diagnostic procedure for different diseases because of its low cost and relatively easy setup.
A recent biomedical science research published in PNAS showed that a paper based urine test can be used to detect a wide array of non-infectious diseases such as cancer and blood clots. The study, which was done in mice, showed promise in the screening of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). It was carried out by administering exogenous substances into the body of the animal models. These injected agents function as synthetic biomarkers which can be detected by a paper strip through a urine sample.
This breakthrough in biomedical engineering research is led by Andrew Warren, MIT graduate. Warren, together with his colleagues, developed nanoscale agents which has the ability to target specific pathologies such as tumors in the body. These nanoparticles are made to bind to reporter compounds which serve as biomarkers. The combination of the biomarker and the particle gets cleared and secreted in the urine.
The researchers demonstrated the viability of this principle by developing two synthetic biomarkers. The first one is associated with colorectal cancer and the other one was for blood clots. The biomarkers were injected into the animal models; afterwards urine sample was collected. The team used a methodology called paper lateral flow assay (LFA) for screening where a paper strip coated with the desired antibodies was used to successfully detect the compounds.
Warren and the rest of the research team states that the LFA technique together with tailored synthetic biomarkers can ultimately form a standard platform for the screening and detection of multiple diseases. The test, they say, can be utilized in almost any setting and does not need expensive equipment to run. The simplicity of the process also eliminates the need to train specialized personnel for the use of the technique.
According to New Scientist, the research team is currently planning to start clinical trials for the use of the test on humans and is planning to launch the product and commercialize it.