Patients with kidney failure often receive either surgery or dialysis from machines so that their kidneys can function normally. Soon, these may not be the only options.

A breakthrough wearable artificial kidney developed by experts in California could someday replace conventional treatments for kidney failure, freeing patients from dialysis machines.

Invented by Dr. Victor Gura of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the wearable artificial kidney could perform dialysis without patients having to spend hours at dialysis centers. The artificial device is capable of cleansing patients' blood as their formerly-functioning kidneys once did.

Substitute For Dialysis

Scientists have long hoped for a small handy device that could carry out dialysis as patients went about their usual day. The wearable artificial kidney can perform exactly that.

In a clinical trial, a prototype of the artificial kidney was tested on seven patients at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.

The test was designed to see how effective the device is and how it might work to safely take the former functions of failed kidneys. Researchers allowed the patients to wear the device for 24 hours.

In the end, the device did work. Scientists said the artificial kidney successfully cleared the blood of waste products such as urea, phosphorus and creatinine. The device also helped rid the blood of excess salt and water.

Researchers said the patients appeared to tolerate the treatment well. There was no effect on circulation and no adverse effect to any parts of the body.

Treatment Bonus

In addition to getting rid of wastes in the body, the artificial wearable device had another benefit.

Patients, whether or not they adhered to a strict diet to keep their blood electrolytes stable, encountered no problems.

What's Next?

Overall, Gura and the team believe that the wearable artificial kidney is possible for actual use. However, they also said some redesigns have to be made in order to correct technical problems related to the device.

For instance, researchers said there was too much buildup of carbon dioxide gas bubbles in the solution used for the dialysis, as well as irregular variations in blood flow.

Given that the team's main goal is for patients to be able to use the artificial kidney at home, the redesigns will focus on reliability and ease of use.

Meanwhile, an endocrinologist from Northwell Health's Southside Hospital in New York is cautiously optimistic about the device.

Dr. Robert Courgi says the concept for the wearable artificial kidney device has been talked about for years, and it is indeed exciting to see it come to life in clinical trials.

However, the device still has shortcomings when it comes to technical parts. Although the wearable device may be used someday, traditional dialysis is still the standard care at the moment, he says.

Details of the study are published in the journal JCI Insight.

The wearable artificial kidney is not the only device of its kind. In 2015, an implantable artificial kidney that could also become an alternative to traditional kidney failure treatments was developed by scientists from Vanderbilt University and University of California.

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