Researchers from University of California, Los Angeles, are developing automated, wearable artificial kidneys that may make "dialysis on the go" a reality in near future.
The design for the peritoneal-based artificial kidney is "bloodless" and reduces or eliminates protein loss and other dialysis-related problems.
According Martin Roberts, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA the new technique is based on the principles an artificial kidney machine developed in 1980.
The automated, wearable artificial kidney, or AWAK, would help in avoid the complications patients often suffer with traditional dialysis.
"What's really new about it is the patient's freedom," said Roberts.
"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," he added.
In traditional dialysis, patients are hooked up to a machine for four hours, three times a week. It filters the blood and removes toxins. The filtered blood is then pumped back into the body.
But hemodialysis can't cleanse and balance fluid 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.
The AWAK 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.
"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," wrote the researchers.
The study appears online in the current issue of the journal Clinical and Experimental Nephrology.