Investigators at the Department of Medicine, together with SensorHut, have been awarded a SBRI NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC grant as part of a £3.6m NIHR competition funded by the Department of Health to help people with kidney failure.
The team, led by Dr Menna Clatworthy, are testing the hypothesis that a change in the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute to the scent of urine, could allow the diagnosis of acute kidney injury (AKI). AKI is a common clinical problem that has a significant economic impact, and there is increasing interest in identifying biomarkers to allow early, non-invasive diagnosis. The notion that urine scent can aid medical diagnosis has been around for millennia. However, Dr Akimichi Inaba, a clinical research fellow in the lab, and nephrology colleague Dr Mahzuz Karim, used electrochemical sensors to turn this medical folklore to experimental fact; preliminarystudies show changes in urine VOCs in subjects with dehydration and AKI compared with healthy controls, some of which may result from the immune response to tubular damage.
Dr Clatworthy and her colleagues teamed up with Dr Tanya Hutter and Dr Marc Stettler of SensorHut, who have developed an optical sensor for VOCs. The SBRI NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC award will allow the team to develop a prototype device to analyse urine headspace using clinical samples from patients with AKI. They also hope to determine whether the presence of specific urine VOCs can be attributed to activation of different types of immune cells within the kidney.