Urine tests provide information to help in the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of a wide range of diseases. Routine urinalysis includes visual, chemical and microscopic examination. Microscopic urinalysis generally provides results that are more quantitative in terms of white blood cells or red blood cells in the urine, the presence of bacteria in the urine, and the amount of cellular debris in the urine.
Researchers from Clemson University have put a new focus on urine testing by developing a test that could make it possible to use urine instead of blood to detect more diseases such as early-stage coronary heart disease or sleeping sickness. Importantly, they say that this new urine testing method can also:
- Provide faster results
- Reduce costs
- Lower the volume of urine needed for a sample
- Replace standard blood tests
Many disorders can be diagnosed in their early stages by detecting abnormalities in the urine such as minor urinary tract infections, diabetes, kidney diseases and other more serious problems. Urine abnormalities include increased concentrations of constituents such as glucose, protein, bilirubin, red blood cells, white blood cells, crystals, and bacteria. Proteins in urine act as biomarkers. These biomarkers indicate whether the patient is sick. Proteins could also potentially provide an indication of coronary heart disease, sleeping sickness, or donor organ rejection.
However, the challenge with urine testing is that urine samples have high salt content. This makes it difficult to isolate the proteins. To overcome this challenge, the researchers developed a new test that extracted the proteins by running a solvent through the tubes in the centrifuge for 30 seconds. The de-ionized water was then passed through the tubes for a minute to wash off salt and other contaminants. The hydrophobic proteins remained behind and could be refrigerated until testing.
An expert from Beijing Normal University points out that this new urine test could have many more advantages over blood testing:
- Unlike changes in blood which is limited by various mechanisms in the body, urine accumulates all kinds of changes and would therefore be a better biomarker source
- Urine is the mostly easily obtained bodily fluid, and it is informative and free of contaminants too
- This method makes it easy to test urine samples from babies
The test requires only a few microliters of urine and the researchers could extract 12 samples in about five minutes.