Smart toilet could spot cancer, heart disease and diabetes in faeces

Smart toilet gadget recognises users by their ‘anal print’ and analyses deposits to detect early warning signs of cancer, heart disease and diabetes

  • Smart toilet detect early warning signs of serious disease in faeces and urine 
  • A camera inside the bowl identifies between users due to their ‘anal print’
  • Data from the samples can reveal biomarkers for ten different types of diseases 

A smart-toilet that can detect signs of various diseases in faeces and urine has been built by scientists. 

The gadget fits inside a regular porcelain toilet bowl and uses cameras, test strips and sensors to identify warning signs of up to ten diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.  

The technology uses a combination of fingerprint scanning on the flush lever and photographic images of the anus to differentiate between users when sitting down. 

Data from the tests is deposited into a secure cloud server for analysis, according to the team who built the tool at Stanford University. 

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 A smart-toilet that can detect signs of various diseases in faeces and urine has been built by scientists. Data from the tests is deposited into a secure cloud server for analysis, according to the team who built the tool at Stanford University

The gadget fits inside a regular porcelain toilet bowl and uses cameras, test strips and sensors to identify warning signs of up to ten diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease

Dr Sanjiv Gambhir, a professor at Stanford University, said: ‘We know it seems weird, but as it turns out, your anal print is unique.

‘The scans – both finger and nonfinger – are used purely as a recognition system to match users to their specific data.’

The gadget connects to an app which passes information to a medical team assigned by the patient for a full diagnosis and further tests, if necessary.   

Data protection is crucial for a device that collects highly personal and sensitive data and Professor Gambhir says the team has made this a top priority. 

‘We have taken rigorous steps to ensure all the information is de-identified when it’s sent to the cloud and that the information – when sent to health care providers – is protected under HIPAA.’

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in the US restricts the disclosure of health care records. 

The researchers said their so-called ‘smart toilet’ technology could be useful for individuals who are genetically predisposed to certain conditions.

It would be useful for people at increased risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), prostate cancer or kidney failure.

Dr Gambhir said: ‘Our concept dates back well over 15 years.

‘When I’d bring it up, people would sort of laugh because it seemed like an interesting idea, but also a bit odd.’

Urine samples undergo physical and molecular analysis while stool assessment is based on physical characteristics only.

Motion sensors under the seat detect when a person is sitting down and then a cartridge slides into the centre of the bowl with paper ‘dipstick-style’ strips.

These change colour when they come into contact with blood and sugar in the urine, for instance, indicators of disease. 

The technology uses a combination of fingerprint scanning on the flush lever and images of the anus from  camera in the bowl (pictured) to differentiate between users

HOW DOES THE SMART TOILET WORK?  

The gadget itself sits inside the porcelain bowl. 

The technology uses a combination of fingerprint scanning on the flush lever and images of the anus to differentiate between users. 

Motion sensors under the seat detect when a person is sitting down and then a cartridge slides into the centre of the bowl with paper ‘dipstick-style’ strips.  

These test for various biomarkers such as sugar or blood and change colour when it is detected. 

Flow rate, stream time and total volume are all also measured.  

There are also computer-vision and machine learning algorithms for analysing solid human waste based on physical characteristics – such as shape and consistency.

Data is then deposited into a secure cloud server, according to the team who built the tool at Sta 

The gadget connects to an app which passes information directly into the hands of a medical team assigned by the patient for a full diagnosis and further tests, if necessary. 

Flow rate, stream time and total volume are all also measured.  

There are also computer-vision and machine-learning algorithms for analysing solid human waste based on physical characteristics – such as shape and consistency. 

Professor Gambhir explained: ‘It’s sort of like buying a bidet add-on that can be mounted right into your existing toilet.

‘And like a bidet, it has little extensions that carry out different purposes.’ 

According to the researchers, the data gathered from the samples can reveal biomarkers for ten different types of diseases, ranging from infection to bladder cancer to kidney failure.

The technology is categorised as continuous health monitoring and has been tested on 21 participants to determine its efficacy. 

However, the researchers say the potential health benefits of their toilet system will only become clear in future large clinical studies.

To get a better feel for ‘user acceptance’, the US team also surveyed 300 prospective smart-toilet users.

More than half were ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ comfortable with the idea of baring all in the name of precision health.

Dr Gambhir adds: ‘The thing about a smart toilet, though, is that unlike wearables, you can’t take it off.

‘Everyone uses the bathroom – there’s really no avoiding it – and that enhances its value as a disease-detecting device.’

Dr Gambhir says that while the toilet has clear benefits as a diagnostic tool, it is no replacement for a doctor or a clinical diagnosis.

According to Dr Gambhir, the next steps in their project will be to develop personalised tests tailored to the user.

The research is published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering. 

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