Don’t go to the doctor. Go to the bathroom.

Human urine is a treasury of health data. It can offer clues to more than 600 illnesses and health conditions; testify to a person’s exercise habits, sleep patterns, and other issues; and spot changes quickly to flag danger signs.

But how to capture those sudden hints of illness?

Leave it to scientists at the University of Wisconsin. They’ve designed a toilet with a built-in portable mass spectrometer that can grab urine samples and test them automatically to spot chemical signatures of health changes.

The first version of the gadget is in use in the builders’ lab and is collecting and analyzing contributions from the staff. The device isn’t elegant, but the builders are redesigning it to make it compact and affordable for labs and medical centers.

TRENDPOST: Automating urinalysis would do more than offer a means of quick diagnostics for individuals or a look at how someone’s body reacts to a medication. Pooling the data (so to speak) could provide a wide database for public health research or be used to signal the beginnings of an illness outbreak.

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