Students compete for best practical test to detect kidney damage

Use your mobile phone to test your own blood for kidney damage – that’s the idea that the Eindhoven student team T.E.S.T. is bringing to the new, international competition SensUs. This competition, organized by students of TU/e, sees European universities compete to develop innovative biosensors and thereby accelerate this technology’s progress. On 10 September the winner will be announced at a public event.

A biosensor is a small instrument that can easily and quickly detect specific substances in body fluids like blood or urine. Familiar examples of biosensors in use today are glucose meters for diabetes patients or pregnancy tests. Biosensors are becoming increasingly important in healthcare. They give care providers information quickly in acute situations, for instance, to help them make treatment decisions on the spot. They also enable patients to ‘care for themselves’.

Creative ideas 
To speed up the development of biosensors, Menno Prins, TU/e professor for molecular biosensors, founded the SensUs student competition. “Students can come up with very creative ideas,” says Prins. “And the fact that patient organizations and large companies are also involved in SensUs boosts the likelihood of society actually putting the really promising solutions to use.” The students themselves are the organizers of the competition.

This first edition of the competition sees teams from five European universities competing: TU/e, Imperial College (England), Uppsala University (Sweden), Technical University of Denmark and KU Leuven (Belgium). The students have spent the past eight months developing a new biosensor, under the supervision of researchers.

Handy test
Each year a different molecule takes center stage. This year the biosensors have to measure the molecule creatinine, an indicator of how a kidney functions. A high concentration of creatinine in the blood may be indicative of kidney damage. Using a biosensor as a handy test will lower the threshold for patients to check at home or at their GP how their kidney is functioning, and so detect kidney failure at an earlier stage.

Mobile phone
The Eindhoven team, called T.E.S.T., is focusing on a biosensor that can be coupled to a mobile phone. Kidney patients should be able to check their kidney function at home using a smartphone app and one drop of blood. This idea has already won the team prizes in both the TU/e Contest and the BrainsAward 2016.

Public event

The winner will be revealed on Saturday 10 September during an event of lectures and demonstrations, with prizes for the performance of the sensor, originality, applicability and inspiration – this final ‘public’ prize being awarded by a vote from the general public present at the event. The program begins at 12.00 in the Auditorium on the TU Eindhoven campus and is open to all those that may be interested.