Artificial kidney overcomes pitfalls of dialysis

July 12th, 2008 - 8:05 pm ICT by IANS  


Washington, July 12 (IANS) Researchers have designed an automated and wearable artificial kidney that avoids the pitfalls of traditional dialysis. The peritoneal-based kidney is “bloodless” and reduces or even eliminates protein loss and other dialysis-related problems.

In 1980, an artificial kidney machine was built that incorporated many of the principles on which the new technology relies, according to Martin Roberts, an assistant professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California.

But that machine, while portable, was not wearable. The new technology would allow patients to go about their regular business while undergoing dialysis.

Roberts said: “To me, as the inventor, the most important thing for the patients is their freedom. The next important thing is that because it’s working all the time instead of intermittently, you can do a much better job of treating the patient. So we expect the patient to feel better and live longer.”

Kidneys remove metabolic wastes from the body and regulate fluid volume and distribution on a continuous, round-the-clock basis. With traditional hemodialysis, patients are hooked up to a machine for four hours, three times a week.

Their blood is filtered through the machine to remove toxins and is then pumped back into the body. What hemodialysis can’t do, however, is provide cleansing and fluid balance on a continuous basis; therefore, toxin levels and fluid volume tend to fluctuate, causing “shocks” to the patient’s system.

The same is true of standard peritoneal-based dialysis. Besides, hemodialysis uses anticoagulants to prevent the blood circulating outside the body from clotting.

But this, too, can cause complications. Work on other wearable kidneys or AWAK has been based on this hemodialysis or hemofiltration model, reports Sciencedaily.

The AWAK, on the other hand, would function continuously, as natural kidneys do, eliminating patient “shocks”. And because it does not involve blood circulation outside the body, it is “bloodless”.

It also regenerates and reuses fluid and protein components in the spent dialysate - the fluid that has abstracted toxins from the patient’s blood and which is discarded in current practice - making it waterless and minimizing or eliminating protein loss.

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