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Kidney patients help trial world’s first blood potassium self-testing device

02 February 2024

The world’s first blood potassium level home testing kit is in development with support from Kidney Research UK. The project has now reached a crucial stage with the first patients poised to participate in the planned clinical study. They will be testing a hand-held device that is designed to empower kidney patients to quickly and simply measure their potassium levels. 

Hands holding a potassium tester
A blood potassium level home testing kit

Why are potassium levels important?

In healthy individuals, the kidneys control potassium levels. Potassium plays a crucial role in the body — it helps to balance blood pressure and supports nerves and muscles. But if the kidneys are not working properly, potassium levels in the body can become dangerously high, or in some patients low. Low potassium causes symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, cramps or seizures, but if potassium levels get too high, people generally have no symptoms until it is too late to be treated.

Using new technology to support optimal patient care

There is currently no way for kidney patients to monitor their own potassium levels — they can only be measured via a blood test at the hospital or GP surgery. Unlike a hand-held monitor that could give more regular readings, hospital readings are time-consuming, costly, and can give readings that do not reflect current concerns if there is a delay between taking the sample and carrying out the analysis.    

Patients testing advanced technology

Following years of research by Professor Fiona Karet and her team, the Kalium Health company was set up in order to support the research and development needed to bring her research idea to patients. The new clinical study will see up to 100 UK-based patients recruited to provide blood samples for testing with the new device. The aim of the study is to investigate how well Kalium’s rapid, handheld test compares to traditional, large hospital-based machines designed for professional use.   

The work by Professor Fiona Karet and Kalium Health has been supported by research grants and funding from Kidney Research UK.  

Lucy Sreeves, executive director at Kidney Research UK, said “Accurately measuring potassium levels is essential for people living with chronic kidney disease. Abnormal levels of potassium in the body are dangerous and potentially life threatening, yet they can only currently be measured through inconvenient and costly visits to clinical settings for invasive blood draws. This clinical study is a significant milestone in the development of this new device to empower patients to measure their own potassium levels and we look forward to seeing the results later in 2024.”

Seeing results

Interim results could be available as soon as February, with full results expected towards to the end of spring 2024.  

Read more on the importance of monitoring potassium levels in kidney patients and the process before the clinical study.

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