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Revolutionising cancer detection: How wearable tech is changing the game

From strip-style urine sensors to artificial intelligence algorithms, the medical industry is exploring new ways to identify signs of cancer in its early stages.

You can learn a lot more medical information about yourself from your urine sample than just how much water you drank during the day. This is due to the fact that urine contains a wealth of information about what is going on inside our bodies.

At CES 2023 French brand Withings showcased U-Scan. This is a puck-shaped device that hangs by your toilet bowl to scan your urine for ketones, hydration levels, vitamin C levels, acid-base balance and much more.

Withings U-Scan
Withings U-Scan

When it comes to cancer, specific metabolites produced by cancerous cells can be detected in urine. These metabolites differ from those produced by healthy cells, implying that urine sensors can also be used to identify the presence of cancer in the body.

Now experts from Kyung Hee University Medical School and the Korea Institute of Materials Science have created a strip-style urine sensor. It can detect signs of pancreatic and prostate cancer. The sensor boosts the light signals emitted by the target metabolites in your sample. In other words, peeing on the strip can aid in the detection of a cancer diagnosis.

Why is urine important in cancer screening?

The most significant advantages the technology is the reduced cost of cancer screening. According to the team, the production cost of each cancer diagnosing strip is only KRW 100. This translates to less than 8 cents per strip. As a result, it is an extremely cost-effective option for people who want to monitor their health or who may not have access to more expensive medical tests.

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When cancer cells grow, they undergo a different type of metabolic reprogramming to meet their high demand for energy packets inside the body. Because these cells are capable of indefinite cell division cycles, they can grow uncontrollably. As a result, metabolites such as pyruvates are released.

Cancer wearables
Source: Korea Institute of Materials Science

The biosensor irradiates the metabolites, increasing their optical signal by over a billion times. The biosensor only requires about 10 microliters of urine for the test. This sample is then analyzed with advanced algorithms.

The entire procedure is quick and painless. This makes it an excellent choice for people who want to track their health from the comfort of their home. Furthermore, the team is working on improving the sensor so that it can detect more types of cancer in the intestines and lungs.

Wearable technology is altering the playing field

Urine sensors are extremely sensitive and precise. The strip-style sensor developed by the Korean scientists distinguishes between urine from healthy people and urine from people with pancreatic or prostate cancer with 99% accuracy. This means that urine sensors could be used as a reliable early cancer detection tool.

Right now, the field of cancer diagnosis is undergoing a revolution that will make the diagnosis process much more convenient. The wearable technology industry is constantly innovating. These latest advancements offer hope for earlier detection and treatment of the condition in the years to come.

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Ivan Jovin

Ivan has been a tech journalist for over 7 years now, covering all kinds of technology issues. He is the guy who gets to dive deep into the latest wearable tech news.

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