Revolutionary ‘pregnancy tester’ to help 1m undiagnosed kidney disease patients in UK

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New report highlights how the nanoparticle device could save NHS millions of pounds a year and revolutionise kidney disease treatment

A new medical device which combines nanotechnology with a pregnancy tester could help diagnose and treat the 1 million people in the UK who don’t know they have kidney disease, a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers reveals today.

Developed by engineers in London, the £10 device can be used at home and could revolutionise kidney disease care in the UK, which currently costs the NHS over £1.4 billion - more than breast, lung, colon and skin cancer combined.

Created by Bio Nano Consulting, the device – called quantitative electrochemical lateral flow assay (QELFA) – uses nanoparticles to test the patient’s urine giving results in seconds and is linked to their surgery via mobile technology so doctors can track how the disease is developing.

The Institution’s new report – Nanotechnology: The Societal Impact of the Invisible – highlights the enormous potential for nanotechnology in our society but calls on the Government to increase funding for nanotech development to ensure the UK does not fall behind other nations.

Report author Dr Helen Meese, Head of Materials at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 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.

“But although the UK has been at the forefront of nanotechnology development, we still lag behind in its commercialisation and many people are still unsure of its potential. We must change this.”

Every day 19 people in the UK are diagnosed with kidney failure yet there is currently no device that can be used by doctors for day-to-day monitoring of kidney disease. Four of these people will not have been known to specialist services for sufficient time to prepare for their treatment. After 90 days one of them will have died, two will have had a transplant, and the remaining 16 will be receiving dialysis treatment at a cost of over £25,000 per year. Many more will have a lesser degree of kidney dysfunction that will place them at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and acute kidney injury.

Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter at an atomic level. A tennis ball, for example, is 100,000,000 nanometres across, and many have heralded the technology as the new industrial revolution.

In today’s report, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers recommends that:

Government: Revises its existing strategic plan on nanotechnology immediately, to reflect the significant changes that have taken place in nanotechnology regulation in the past 5 years, and commits to match the current EU funding of £36.5m for a further 3 years

The Profession: Must work with Government and non-technical sectors such as the media to create a well-defined forum for public awareness and open dialogue on emerging technologies.

Industry: Must create a number of ‘Industry Champions’ whose aim is to pull the research through to the commercial product. These high-profile nanotechnology advocates would act as a catalyst to bring together fundamental research and commerce and identify high value markets where technical demonstrators and proof-of-concept could be developed.


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