The kidneys are two organs in the body that filter out waste and extra liquid from blood and turn them into urine. If they lose this function, waste and liquid can build up in the body in toxic quantities which can lead to death. This can be caused by chronic kidney disease, and especially its advanced stage – end-stage renal disease.
Patients with end-stage renal disease rely on an external device called a dialyzer which clarifies blood. This process – called dialysis – is a painful procedure where the dialyzer removes blood removed from the body, removes its toxins, then sends it back to the body. The process also takes up a lot of time during which the patient is completely immobile. Consequently, this lack of freedom can cause a lot of mental stress to patients.
An Artificial Kidney
Recently, a company called Wearable Artificial Organs Inc has patented its design for a wearable artificial kidney (WAK). The device promises that patients undergoing dialysis will be free to move around as they get treated.
According to the patent, the device comprises two dialysis systems that need to be used alternatively. The first system can be worn by the patient as a belt around their waist, allowing them to move freely. Moreover, it is battery-operated. The second system is designed as a support to the first, filtering out toxins that were not removed before.
“The WAK will provide different levels of dialysis during the day and at night,” explained Victor Gura, associate clinical professor of medicine at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and inventor of the WAK, while talking to Healio Nephrology. “During the day, there will be low, continuous filtration. At night, the dialysis will be more thorough,”.
According to Dr. Gura, he has been working on this idea for 20 years, perfecting its machinery and making it lighter. The first prototype was a whopping 200 pounds and was subject to animal testing. The patented device, however, is just 2 pounds.
“We are delighted with this new version of the WAK,” said Dr Gura. “It will free patients from spending lengthy hours in bed or an armchair, tied up to a big machine in a dialysis clinic. A miniaturized, battery-operated wearable artificial kidney (WAK) can improve patient autonomy and has the potential to improve quality of life and reduce mortality,”
The device is about to go into a clinical trial to ascertain its effectiveness and patient safety.