New 'smart toilets' may help test urine: Study

The 'smart toilet' may lead to improved personalised medicine

Health-toilet-young-woman-constipation-hemorrhoids-sitting-on-toilet-shut Photo for representation | Shutterstock

Researchers have built a 'smart toilet' to collect urine samples from subjects which can be used to evaluate their metabolic state—an advance that may lead to improved personalised medicine.

The study, published in the journal Nature Digital Medicine, noted that the urine samples contained a health fingerprint following the ebbs and flows of daily life.

The researchers from Morgridge Institute for Research in the US -- who also were the subjects using the smart toilet—kept records of their coffee and alcohol consumption, and measured the biomarkers with a known connection to both those drinks.

They provided 110 samples over a 10-day period, and used wearable technology to track their heart rate, steps taken, calorie consumption, and sleep patterns.

The study noted that one of the subjects took the drug acetaminophen, which was measured in his urine by a spike in ion intensity.

The metabolic outputs from exercise and sleep could also be measured precisely by the new technology, the researchers said.

They now plan to include a portable mass spectrometer which can recognize the individual and process samples across a variety of subjects.

The researchers plan to install the toilet in their research building, and expand their user group to twelve or more subjects.

"We know in the lab we can make these measurements. And we're pretty sure we can design a toilet that could sample urine," said study co-author Joshua Coon from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.

The researchers added that one of the main challenges lying ahead is to invest in the technology's engineering to make it simpler and more affordable.