Breakthrough Kidney Stone Test Yields Results in 30 Short Minutes

Scientists created a lightning-fast kidney stone test capable of detecting stones in 30 minutes — much faster than typical tests, which are pricey and often take 10 days.
Brad Bergan

Scientists just made a breakthrough that could transform kidney stone detection with a novel urine test capable of giving results in 30 short minutes, according to a recent study published in the journal Science Advances.


New kidney stone test gives results in 30 minutes

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University and Stanford University carried out the breakthrough study capable of making vast improvements on methods used to detect kidney stones with a new urine test that returns results in only 30 minutes.

Typical kidney stone tests take seven to 10 days to yield definitive results, which makes this new method blindingly fast. It's also much cheaper and more widely accessible — which means the new method is an ideal choice to offer effective new ways to detect and manage the kidney-affecting condition.

Kidney stones happen when salt and minerals build up in the organ and make their precarious way into the urinary tract — causing a full entrée of discomfort in patients. Urine testing for specific metabolites associated with the rise of dangerous clumps is one of the ways clinicians identify and prevent their formation.

But alas this process is lengthy and costly.

Comparing kidney stone detectors, new and old

The first thing patients do for kidney stone detection involves collecting their own urine over 24 hours. The samples are then sent to a lab for analysis. This takes pricey equipment to test the sample for solutes and minerals — often taking upward of 10 days for results to arise.

Seeking new and more efficient solutions, the team of scientists took inspiration from nepenthes pitcher plants. They're carnivorous, hungry plants with leaves shaped like pitchers, and entrap unsuspecting insects with slippery rims that provide little to no friction for the scampering insects as they slip and slide mercilessly down into deadly pools of digestive liquid.

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"There are many aspects we can learn from nature and our environment, and our research is an example how biomedical engineers can make good use of it," said Pak Kin Wong, a professor of biomedical engineering at Penn State and leader of the team behind the study, according to a Penn State blog post.

Nature inspires greatness, speed, merciless efficiency

The research team dubbed its novel nature-inspired device the slippery liquid-infused porous surface (SLIPS)-LAB. Consisting of smooth, low-friction surfaces and specially engineered geometry that lets urine droplets glide over the top and combine with special reactants at precise rates of reaction to trigger necessary chemical reactions.

"We demonstrated that SLIPS-LAB enables the reagent and sample to move themselves and perform the reactions for us," said Wong, according to New Atlas. "It means the technology doesn't require a technician to run any test machinery, so it is possible to do the test in non-traditional settings, like a physician's office or even the patient's home."

The new test results from SLIPS-LAB technology are legible on a smartphone or scanner courtesy of a computer algorithm. According to the team of scientists, the novel analysis takes roughly 30 minutes in a doctor's office — and doesn't need pricey lab equipment, which means their new method represents a sharp drop in the need for both time and money.