Kidney diseases, as well as heart disease and treatments for high blood pressure, can be associated with potentially dangerous abnormalities of bodily potassium levels. Maintenance of potassium levels, within defined limits, is crucial to health as severe high or indeed low potassium can lead to heart rhythm abnormalities and sudden death.
Professor Fiona Karet, co-founder of Kalium and professor of nephrology at the University of Cambridge said: “Currently, there is no medically approved, accurate blood potassium test available for use outside of hospital or centralised lab settings. This deprives millions of people with renal or cardio-vascular conditions, and their healthcare teams, of the opportunity to monitor and improve their health and well-being. “This ‘home test’ idea originated from patients at Addenbrooke’s Hospital who were asking to monitor their own blood potassium levels. We took this on board and are now developing a test-kit that enables blood electrolyte measurement in a small fingerprick drop of blood.”
The Kalium test kit will function in a similar way to a glucometer commonly used by diabetics. It will comprise an electronic reader linked to a smartphone, plus a single use disposable test-strip. This kit will be used by patients themselves, and can also be used by GPs and specialists who need a quick and convenient check of the patient’s potassium.
Doctors will have access to more data. Physicians are already using computers and other high-tech devices and the use of these devices is improving health care. As data becomes more readily available, extensive and personalized, it will revolutionize the way doctors diagnose disease and treat patients.
The platform technology is based on miniaturised electrochemical sensing and will enable both healthcare providers and patients to obtain results instantly with hospital-grade accuracy at the point-of-care or at home. This will allow them to take action to reduce health risks.
Professor Karet added: “In the community, patients are currently dependent on trips to a hospital or community blood-taking services and centralised lab-based testing, and these are associated with inconvenience and a delay in obtaining results."
Patient groups which can be expected to benefit most from a new home test include dialysis and pre-dialysis chronic kidney disease patients, as well as those with inherited kidney disorders. Others include renal transplant recipients on immunosuppressants as well as some patients with severe eating disorders and intestinal failure.
Kalium, was launched last year with the project originating at the University of Cambridge, in a collaborative effort between researchers in the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research and the Department of Chemistry.
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