Patients suffering from kidney failure may be able to free themselves from dialysis centers soon if a wearable, artificial kidney passes critical safety tests.
In development for over a decade, the University of Washington’s wearable artificial kidney (WAK) is essentially a portable dialysis machine. Built with a belt design, the renal machine filters toxins from a wearer’s blood while also liberating them from frequent and time consuming sojourns at dialysis centers.
Nearly identical to a traditional dialysis machine in its mechanics, the WAK has reduced the size of a dialysis machine by leveraging breakthroughs in miniaturization, batteries, materials, and most crucially, the amount of water required to filter blood. In the past, cabinet-sized dialysis machines required 151L (40 gallons) of water to clean a person’s system. However, with the WAK that volume has been slashed so that only a half-liter (1 pint) of water is needed to filter a person’s entire circulatory system.
Though the WAK is still in its prototype phase the device has been selected by the FDA to be one of 32 devices and therapies that will kick start its new Innovation Pathway program, which could greatly speed up the WAK’s R&D.
As part of its trials the WAK team will see 10 patients receive full dialysis therapy from the device for a number of 24-hour tests. During the tests blood will be drawn from each patient and the level of toxins remaining in the blood will be measured. If the WAK proves successful in tests, the machine’s designers will refine their prototype in an attempt to make it smaller, more comfortable and capable of delivering 24-hour dialysis, similar to the way a normal kidney would operate.
Image and Video Courtesy of University of Washington