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Novel device could help fight kidney disease

Published on 24/02/15 at 10:33am
QELFA device
Creators of the £10 QELFA gadget are hoping to enter the kidney disease market

A novel device that combines nanotechnology and a pregnancy tester could help treat kidney disease, according to a report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME).

The quantitative electrochemical lateral flow assay (QELFA) tool has been developed by engineers at London-based firm Bio Nano Consulting – jointly owned by Imperial College London and University College London – and uses nanoparticles to test the patient’s urine giving results in seconds.

The nanotechnology – the manipulation of matter at an atomic level – instrument can be used at home and synced via mobile technology to patients’ local doctors so they can track how the illness is developing.

“The QELFA device is a brilliant example of what’s possible” comments the report author Dr Helen Meese, who is the head of materials at the IME.

“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.”

Creators of the £10 gadget are hoping to enter the kidney disease market which currently costs the NHS over £1.4 billion, which is more than breast, lung, colon and skin cancer combined. According to the report, the government must increase funding for nanotech development to ensure the UK does not fall behind other nations who are embracing it.

Meese adds: “Nanotechnology could revolutionise the way we live our lives – but the UK government must provide more funding to ensure that the UK benefits fully from nanotechnology’s potential.”

In 2011 the nanotechnology market was worth in excess of $27 billion, and the IME predicts it will grow to an estimated $4.4 trillion by 2018.

A number of pharma firms have kidney disease offerings of their own, including Pfizer’s Rapamune pill which yesterday received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) priority review for the treatment.

Also in February German firm Boehringer Ingelheim in combination with Lilly, saw their Glyxambi (empagliflozin/linagliptin) tablet become the first two diabetes drugs to be given the green light to treat forms of kidney disease.

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. It is estimated that about one in five men and one in four women between the ages of 65 and 74 has some degree of the illness.

Today’s report by the IME is also calling for the industry to create ‘Industry Champions’ whose aim is to promote further research into nanotechnology, and identify high value markets encouraging additional concepts and developments.

Tom Robinson

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