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Chemistry studies of human urine could yield improved medical testing

Sept. 6, 2013 at 5:15 PM   |   Comments

EDMONTON, Alberta, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Canadian researchers say their discovery of the complete chemistry of human urine "could be a real game-changer" in medical, drug and environmental testing.

A 7-year study involving a team of nearly 20 researchers has revealed more than 3,000 chemicals or "metabolites" can be detected in urine, a University of Alberta release reported Thursday.

"Urine is an incredibly complex biofluid," David Wishart, senior scientist on the project, said. "We had no idea there could be so many different compounds going into our toilets."

The researchers used analytical chemistry techniques including nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography to systematically identify and quantify hundreds of compounds in human urine samples.

The researchers said the chemical composition of urine is of particular interest to physicians, nutritionists and environmental scientists because it reveals information about a person's health, what one have eaten, what one is drinking, what drugs one is taking and what environmental pollutants one may have been exposed to.

"Most medical textbooks only list 50 to 100 chemicals in urine, and most common clinical urine tests only measure six to seven compounds," Wishart said. "Expanding the list of known chemicals in urine by a factor of 30 and improving the technology so that we can detect hundreds of urine chemicals at a time could be a real game-changer for medical testing."

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