An Unbiased Overview of the Future of Dialysis

Of the many patients with kidney failure, only a few are ever able to get new kidneys. Those who aren’t lucky enough to get an organ have to rely on dialysis, a procedure that isn’t a pleasant experience. The process takes a long time to complete and it is costly, not just for the patient but for insurance companies and facilities. However, there has been research conducted into improving dialysis technology.


Home dialysis is the future


A study published in the American Society of Nephrology in 2014 concluded that home dialysis therapies can prolong the lives of those with kidney failure compared to hemodialysis treatments done in medical centers. Another report by CADTH released in 2017 also suggests home-based dialysis should be recommended to patients if they are eligible for home therapies.


Home dialysis is a good option for many reasons. It offers similar benefits to the process performed in facilities. The fact that many patients seem to prefer it is also an indication of why it will become more popular in the future. A home-based approach frees the patient from the costs of commuting and saves them a lot of time.


There was also a push for new dialysis machine technology at the annual Kidney Week event of the American Society of Nephrology in 2016. Several companies presented machine technologies tackling a similar theme: connectivity and ease of use.


Artificial kidney


Startup company, Qidini Labs, is working on creating a nano-filter portable kidney, where the filter acts like a dialysis machine. The artificial kidney will connect to dialysis ports on the patient’s neck, allowing them continue on with their day.


Although Qidini Labs won $550,000 to fund this project, they need at least $2 million to get it ready for human testing. At this point, they are using sheep as test subjects.


This kind of machine is of great help for patients with renal failure because they no longer need to go to clinics for dialysis treatment. With the machine being portable, their schedule opens up even more, allowing them to go back to work.


Eliminating dialysis technology?


A team of scientists at Manchester University were able to successfully grow human kidney tissue. This tissue can actually produce urine. They used embryonic stem cells to create what they call Kidney Glomeruli and combined it with a gel-like substance then inserted it into mice. In a span of three months, the mice had human kidney structures in them.


While it sounds promising, the constructed organ lacks a large artery to power it. Meaning, the created organ cannot function at the same rate as an actual kidney. It’s not known yet if this technology will eventually eliminate dialysis because it is lacking in certain important aspects. Regardless, it will be interesting to see further development.


Lifelong shunts


California company Humacyte, is testing a shunt made of human stem cells for patients with renal failure. While there are dialysis shunts available today, they are made of man-made material and the idea behind this project is that the body won’t reject organic material. The development is in the second stage of the required three FDA clinical trials, but further research still needs to be done to determine its effect on a patient’s long-term health.


Although these developments still require a lot of work before they can be available to the public, they all point to dialysis advancements and improvements for everyone.


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