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New medical device could help millions of patients.

Kidneys are an important part of the human body -- as the body's filtration system, they keep harmful pollutants from building up in the blood stream and causing problems which can, if left untreated, become fatal. When kidneys fail, modern medical technology generally relies on dialysis.

Hemodialysis is typically the common means of treatment, and it involves externally removing toxins from the blood via machinery. The process takes four hours, three times weekly, causing a great deal of stress in the patient's life and body. As the treatment only occurs every few days, harmful substances build up in the blood stream, and when they are all filtered out in the span of several hours, along with the addition of anticoagulants used to prevent filtering blood from clotting, it causes a shock to the patient's body.

However, thanks to Martin Roberts and David B. N. Lee of the UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, cumbersome dialysis may be a thing of the past for many patients. They have designed a peritoneal, wearable kidney which could replace the function of a patient's own failing organs.

There are many benefits to the automated, wearable artificial kidney, or AWAK. Foremost is that rather than spending hours on a machine several times a week; much like a regular kidney, the AWAK functions continuously. This will allow patients to go about their lives in a much more unaffected manner than presently available.

Another is the efficiency of the device. Typically, dialysate, the fluid of pollutants and other chemicals removed from blood during dialysis, is simply disposed. The AWAK can reuse the fluid and proteins contained in the dialysate, reducing protein and eliminating water loss during the filtration process.

"Dialysis-on-the-go, made possible by AWAK's 'wearability' and automation, frees end-stage renal failure patients from the servitude that is demanded by the current dialytic regimentations," stated Robert and Lee in a Clinical and Experimental Nephrology article about the device. Certainly the device will improve the quality of life for many dialysis patients should it see widespread use.



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RE: this is a great leap forward
By steven975 on 7/16/2008 3:24:09 PM , Rating: 2
I was on dialysis for 6 years, but I got a transplant 6 months ago. Let me tell you, it sucks, but I took to it better than most others. I continued working full time and did dialysis on top of that. Though I'm only 32, I feel mentally like I'm over 100.

IMO, this isn't really much of a breakthrough, as peritoneal dialysis has been around for some time. Such a process can often be done while you sleep, so it won't really free people as much as this article implies. Basically, peritoneal dialysis involves attaching a bag of dialystate through a tube and into your peritoneal cavity, and then draining it later. The peritoneum, a membrane in your abdomen, lets exess sodium, potassium, and waste through it and into the dialystate through osmosis. This device just makes it more portable than it is.

Unfortunately, peritoneal dialysis isn't really as effective as hemodialysis (that done with blood), and infections are quite common. I chose the hemodialsysis over that process, as the risk and effectiveness are generally superior.

IMO, the ultimate breakthrough is a kidney grown from your own stem cells. I think such a thing is going to happen, and it will truly revolutionize the suffering that is the treatment of kidney disease. Transplants work, too, but they have their own issues and the drugs are no fun...and you take them forever.


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