Uric acid is not only the main part of quality synthetic urine, but also an important indicator of various disease processes in human system. When the body breaks down substances called purine nucleotides, uric acid is produced and normally dissolves into the blood and travels to the kidneys to be passed in urine. Both high and low levels of uric acid can indicate a malfunctioning of body processes. Low levels may indicate the inability of the kidneys to pass uric acid which may lead to kidney damage or multiple sclerosis. High levels may be an indicator of several serious processes such as, cardiovascular disease, metastasized cancer, disorders of bone marrow, gout, diseases which involve the breakdown of muscles, as well as several syndromes such as Lesch-Nyhan and Fanconi.
Another serious disease that is associated with the abnormal level of uric acid is the Preeclampsia, which remains a primary reason of maternal death in developing countries, and in view of the fact that its causes are still uncertain, early detection has continued to be a significant challenge. Preeclampsia is a complicated pregnancy condition which involves dangerously high blood pressure called hypertension, and may also include swelling in the face and hands, severe headaches, nausea, impaired kidney function, abdominal pain, weight gain, and changes to vision. Although signs of preeclampsia may progress gradually, the preponderance of its symptoms appear with sudden onset making early detection crucial for treatment options.
Important hallmarks of preeclampsia are protein in the urine and hypertension. Traditional methods used in detection of protein in urine, like fluorescence-based immunoassays, can take up to few days to produce results, lack the portability necessary to be accessible in developing countries, and are only useful in diagnosing preeclampsia during late stages.
Uric acid as a marker of hypertension has been increasingly identified as a potential early warning sign of preeclampsia, so scientists of Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia have now developed portable diagnostic technology, which uses electrochemical surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to detect high levels of uric acid in urine. For enhanced detection of the uric acid molecules, the researchers developed a test surface with layers of gold and silver nanoparticles on a commercial carbon electrode. They applied voltage across the electrode boosting the interactions between uric acid and the surface. This process amplified the uric acid’s characteristic SERS signal.
The researchers have been tested several synthetic urine samples containing various uric acid concentrations under 1 millimolar (mM), in which a level of 0.4 mM or above served as a potential indicator of preeclampsia. These tests have detected a consistently linear correlation between the levels of uric acid and SERS signals, indicating that this diagnostic method has the potential to quantify the biomarker.
With uric acid level being an important indicator of health, in regards to early detection of preeclampsia, as well as other diseases and syndromes, the new portable screening method, which was invented by testing of synthetic urine samples, could have many potential benefits for healthcare in developing countries.