- Researchers developed a small, wearable device for dialysis patients
- The U.S. FDA announced that it would expedite the approval of the device after it was studied
For patients with kidney failure, the common treatment is to be hooked up to a dialysis machine at a hospital or clinic several times a week. In addition to the inconvenience, patients develop buildup of fluids and minerals between dialysis sessions, which can result in high blood pressure and breathing problems and require severe dietary restrictions.
"I was very frustrated -- I still am -- because for decades, we've been doing dialysis with big machines that prolong the life of the patient a little bit ... and in addition, they have a lousy quality of life," said Victor Gura, an associate clinical professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Gura and his colleagues are developing the Wearable Artificial Kidney, or WAK
, which would filter a patient's blood continuously, instead of a few times a week. "This is to reduce a lot of the complications that make patients sick ... (and) to give patients back their life," such as allowing them to have jobs again, he said.
The researchers presented the results of a small trial of the device on Saturday at Kidney Week, the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology. The trial involved seven patients in Seattle with end-stage kidney disease who wore the device for 24 hours. During that time, the device removed water and salts from the blood at the same rate as healthy kidneys, and patients did not complain of discomfort or experience side effects, Gura said.
The current research has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal and should be considered preliminary; however, Gura and his colleagues have previously published studies of patients wearing WAK devices for up to eight hours
Participants in the current and previous trials were able to sleep with the devices, and should be able to take showers and carry out other normal activities, Gura said.
"We encouraged patients to eat bananas and mashed potatoes and drink orange juice, (and) they enjoyed ice cream and cheesecake, which they couldn't before," Gura said. Normally, these foods would be off-limits because they can lead to a dangerous buildup of potassium and phosphorus between dialysis sessions.