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Wearable Artificial Kidney May Replace Traditional Dialysis

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Common treatment for kidney failure in patients involves traveling to a clinic or hospital and sitting idly while hooked to a huge dialysis for a period of time. A team of doctors developed a wearable, experimental device for patients who depend highly on kidney dialysis.

Apart from the inconvenience of being hooked to a dialysis machine, patients often lead poor life quality due to the dependence and possible complications. Moreover, potential accumulation of minerals and fluids in between sessions can lead to breathing problems and increase in blood pressure. A strict dietary restraint is needed when these complications arise.

Associate clinical professor of medicine, Victor Gura from the University of California's David Geffen School of Medicine stressed his frustration about the current practice that has not changed for decades. While kidney dialysis can extend the life of a patient, the quality of such extensions is often inferior.

Together with his colleagues, Gura developed WAK mean stands for Wearable Artificial Kidney, an experimental, mobile dialysis device that is capable of filtering the patient's blood constantly instead of several times a week.

"This is to reduce a lot of the complications that make patients sick... (and) to give patients back their life," said Gura.

The results of the WAK's small trial were presented during American Society of Nephrology's annual meeting called Kidney Week. The WAK trial took in seven kidney dialysis patients from Seattle suffering from last-stage kidney disease. The patients wore WAK for 24 hours wherein the device filtered the patient's blood continuously, in real time, just as a normal, healthy kidney would have done.

The patients involved in the small trial did not reveal any comfort-related complaints or side effects. The patients were able to carry out their normal activities such as taking showers, sleeping, and clothing themselves. Notably, foods such as mashed potatoes, bananas, cheesecake and ice cream were eaten by the participant. Normally, these foods are discouraged among kidney patients due to the possible building up phosphorous and potassium in between sessions.

The team did encounter a hitch, two of the seven WAK devices stopped working before the 24 hours were up. Gura and team are working to correct the technical problem in order to start the seven-day trial.

The results of the latest trial has not been published in any peer-reviewed journals, however, the researchers previously released a study where they tested WAK's performance for seven hours.

"Getting the machine to be reliable and consistent is going to be (Gura's) greatest challenge. ... I'll be convinced when they can keep patients stable for seven or 14 days," said National Kidney Foundation spokeswoman Leslie Spry, who is also Dialysis Center of Lincoln's medical director.

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