A wearable artificial kidney has been successfully tested in the USA, offering hope for more comfort and flexibility to kidney failure sufferers so far constrained to hospital-based haemodialysis.
The device, developed by Cedar-Sinai Medical Center researcher Victor Gura, was tested on seven patients in a trial authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and conducted by researchers from the University of Washington.
"I was amazed at how well it worked for me,” one of the participants in the study commented. “It was heavy and cumbersome, but I'd be wearing it today if I could. It just gives you so much more freedom."
The device, which is being commercialised through Gura’s company Blood Purification Technologies, proved to be able to efficiently remove waste products such as urea, creatinine and phosphorus from the patients’ blood.
In addition to its portability, the wearable artificial kidney provided another benefit to the patients – it functioned without them having to be put on a restrictive diet and was able to remove excess water and salt from the blood.
Current blood-purification procedures for patients with final stage kidney failure require the patients to attend hospital three times a week to be hooked up to a haemodialysis machine. The patients also need to follow a strict diet plan to manage electrolytes such as sodium and potassium.
In the study, published in the latest issue of the journal JCI Insights, the team admitted the device suffered from some teething problems during the trial, which would require further re-design.
During the 24-hour period for which each of the patients wore the artificial kidney, the researchers observed some excessive formation of carbon dioxide bubbles in the dialysis solution and intermittent variations in solution and blood flow.
All participants tolerated the treatment well and experienced only mild side effects.
The team, which hopes to conduct longer term trials in near future, believes the technology could considerably improve the quality of life of kidney failure sufferers, allowing them to stay away from hospital for longer periods of time but also enabling more frequent sessions. Currently, it is almost impossible for the patients to travel due to the necessity to visit hospital three times a week.
The technology is being developed in collaboration with FDA’s Center for Device and Radiological Health, through its Innovation Pathway 2.0 program.