Skip to main content

Scientists have figured out an ingenious new use for fidget spinners

Fidget spinners, the craze that swept the world a few years back, are great for distracting you from your work. But, according to researchers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea, they may be great for something else as well: Diagnosing urinary tract infections.

These infections, which can cause a strong urge to urinate and a burning sensation when you pee, are currently diagnosed by a doctor or nurse. While the diagnosis can be performed quickly in many places, in rural parts of the world the process can take around one week — which includes healthcare visits, antibiotic prescription, shipping urine samples to a lab, culturing bacteria, and more.

This new fidget spinner approach, which does not require expert oversight and can be determined by the naked eye, takes advantage of the centrifugal force of the fidget spinner to separate bacteria in urine when it is loaded into the device. The process reveals the presence of bacterial cells after a dye is added. A diagnosis can be made with just a couple of spins, with the overall process lasting just 45 minutes.

“We designed the device to be used in the places where electricity is not readily available,” Yoon-Kyoung Cho, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “No electricity means many things that we take [for] granted, such as a refrigerator or skilled nurses, are not available.”

Cho said that the team has been working on centrifugal microfluidic devices for years. Some of their creations, such as fully automated on-disc operations for pathogen DNA detection or liquid biopsy circulating biomarkers from blood samples, are currently used for research in clinical settings. However, none of these previous approaches have worked in settings where no electricity is available.

The urinary tract infection-assessing fidget spinner was recently tried on 39 people with suspected cases of bladder infections. The researchers found that it gave similar results to standard issue laboratory tests, thereby proving its efficacy.

“[We] plan to commercialize [this] so that it can be actually used in the settings where the needs are,” Cho said. “We have previous experience of commercialization [for the microfluidic devices mentioned]. Therefore, it should not take too long.”

A paper describing the work, “A fidget spinner for point-of-care diagnostics,” was recently published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Your Mac is about to get a killer security feature
Apple MacBook Pro 16 downward view showing keyboard and speaker.

Everyone is talking about the potential security problems with Apple's recent AI push, but Apple has also announced a new security feature in macOS Sequoia that sounds incredibly handy. The feature is called "Rotate Wi-Fi Address," which increases user privacy by randomly modifying your Apple device's MAC addresses when connected to a network.

In addition to being available in Sequoia, the feature is also coming to iOS 18 and iPadOS 18.

Read more
A breakthrough technology could make CPUs 100x faster
The PPU, as imagined by Flow Computing.

There are bold claims, and then, there are bold claims -- Flow Computing just made the latter. According to the startup, its proprietary tech, which it refers to as a parallel processing unit (PPU), can boost the performance of any CPU by up to 100 times.

It doesn't even have to be one of the best CPUs -- Flow Computing claims that all devices in need of high-performance CPUs will find massive benefits in using the company's PPU. There's more to it that sounds pretty amazing, but what are the odds that it'll actually make it to market? Let's take a closer look.

Read more
Your PC’s security is being attacked on two new fronts
Person using Windows 11 laptop on their lap by the window.

Your PC is facing a double whammy of cyber threats, both of them built into basic Windows features -- one that exploits Windows search and another a Wi-Fi vulnerability.

The first vulnerability allows hackers to exploit search in what researchers have called a "clever" way, as reported by Trustwave. It begins when users are tricked into downloading malware, starting with phishing emails with malicious .ZIP attachments containing HTML files disguised as invoices or something along those lines.

Read more