Health and Medicine Technology

Wearable Artificial Kidney Completes First Clinical Trial And May Change Dialysis Treatment Forever

wearable kidney

The results of a clinical trial have shown that a wearable artificial kidney may be the new form of dialysis. The official and complete study was published on June 2nd in JCI Insights. This new technology may be able to completely replace current hemodialysis for people who have reached the end stages of kidney disease.

Current treatments typically are necessary three times a week, being hooked up to a stationary machine that does not allow patients to walk around while the machine is working. A wearable device would allow patients to become mobile and offer much longer and more frequent sessions without all the hassle.

artificial kidney prototype
Working prototype of the wearable artificial kidney developed by Dr. Victor Gura and his team. (Image credit: Stephen Brashear/University of Washington)

The Food and Drug Administration authorized trials of the prototype there were performed with the help of seven patients from the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle during late 2015. Each patient was provided with treatment for as long as 24 hours. Trials were conducted in order to determine both the safety and efficiency of the new device.

The device was shown to effectively clear the blood of all waste products, such as urea, creatinine and phosphorus and also got rid of excess amounts of both water and salt. While the diet for those being treated by dialysis are very restricted, when using the Wearable Artificial Kidney, no limitations are required in order to keep patients’ blood electrolytes and blood fluid volume in perfect balance.

Schematics of wearable artificial kidney
Schematics of wearable artificial kidney

No serious or adverse side effects were reported during the trials and their circulatory systems remained stable for all patients. Unfortunately, after the seventh patient there were technical problems with the device, such as a large formation of carbon dioxide gas bubbles within the dialysis solution and intermittent variations in both solution and blood flow.

These particular complications need to be looked into before any further testing can be completed. Researchers would like to continue and lengthen studies. The findings thus far do prove that a wearable device may be a viable and novel alternative to dialysis technologies used today.

Patients during the study reported a much higher satisfaction rating when being treated using the wearable kidney in comparison to ratings given when using conventional dialysis treatments. It is well known that patients as well as their families are much more prone to reach for treatments that can give them more time at home and the freedom to continue on with their normal lives with fewer visits to the hospital.

Chuck Lee, a patient in the trial said he was amazed at how well the treatment worked for him. It was heavy and cumbersome but he says if he could start wearing it today, he would. He said it gave him so much more freedom.

Both researchers and inventors have stated that the redesign of the WAK components will be directed at the ease of use and reliability of operation of the device but their absolute number one priority is that treatment can be administered at the patients’ homes either by the patients themselves or those taking care of them.