Human urine and excreta can store useful information about our health and well-being, and scientists are working on some interesting techniques that could help us unravel this information. One of a team from Stanford University has shown off a new type of “smart toilet” that automatically scans urine and faeces samples for signs of disease.
Previous research has involved the idea of using smart toilets or smart toilet paper, which dissects stool samples to reveal their contents. This allows people to better understand the bacteria that live in our guts, while other sewer sampling techniques can even provide community-wide early snapshots of disease outbreaks, including COVID-19.
Stanford University’s smart toilet project has actually been in the works for a long time, and researchers led by Sanjiv Gambhir have now proved its worth in an experimental study involving 21 subjects. “Our concept goes back 15 years, ” says Gambhir, a professor of radiology at Stanford University. “When I come up, people laugh because it seems like an interesting idea, but it’s also a little strange. “
The technology can be added to existing toilets. The attachment is equipped with a camera that captures video of urine and feces and then processes it by algorithm to assess its physical properties. According to the team, the algorithms can analyze the urine dynamics of urine samples. This means that it can evaluate flow rates, etc., to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy samples, and similar conclusions can be drawn by analyzing the consistency of stool samples.
In addition, the smart toilet has deployed a urine analysis strip to scan the molecular characteristics of the urine sample. In its current form, Gambhir says, the smart toilet can track 10 different biomarkers, including white blood cell counts and levels of certain proteins that can indicate a range of diseases, including kidney failure, infection or bladder cancer.
The team demonstrated these capabilities through their experimental studies, which involved 21 participants who tested the toilet for several months. Because the goal is to provide personalized health monitoring, the team integrated a fairly interesting identification system that uses a small scanner to image the user’s anus to match their specific data. We know it looks strange, but it turns out that your fingerprints are unique. Gambhir said.
As it progresses further, the team envisions that when something goes wrong, the toilet can be connected with the APP to safely pass data to the user’s doctor. The team hopes to continue to improve smart toilets, starting with larger research to involve more participants and integrate new features to personalize testing, such as blood glucose monitoring for diabetics. Molecular analysis of the inclusion of stool samples is another objective.
“It’s a tricky issue, but we’re working toward that goal. Gambhir said. “Smart toilets are the perfect way to take advantage of often overlooked data sources — users don’t have to do anything different. “
The study was published in the journal Nature-Biomedical Engineering.