Thousands of people with chronic kidney disease now being kept alive by dialysis machines that tie them to a hospital bed for hours will be enormously relieved when a fist-sized artificial kidney hits the market, possibly by the end of the decade.
The device being engineered in the US will go through a series of safety and efficacy trials on hundreds of patients in that country before it is approved by the FDA, University of California San Francisco researcher Dr Shuvo Roy , co-inventor of the device, said at the Tanker annual charity and awards night on Wednesday .
The device that can be implanted in the abdomen and will be powered by the heart is designed to filter the blood and perform other kidney functions, including production of hormones, and help assist in blood pressure control, he told a hall filled with doctors, paramedics and patients. Unlike conventional haemodialysis, which merely filters toxins from the blood, the artificial kidney has a membrane that filters the blood and a bio-reactor comprising living kidney cells that are exposed to the blood during dialysis. “It performs the job of a kidney more holistically than just conventional dialysis,“ he said.
The final stage of chronic kidney disease, called end stage renal disease, is when the kidneys are no longer able to remove enough wastes and excess fluids from the body. At this point, patients are put on dialysis, sometimes up to three times a week, as a bridge to transplant. Increasing incidence of diabetes and hypertension has been pushing up chronic kidney disease among many patients.
At least 2.5 lakh people in India die due to kidney disease every year. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two most common causes and account for most cases. The cost of treating end-stage kidney disease through dialysis or a kidney transplant is enormous.
In the Tamil Nadu chief minister's health insurance I scheme, which covers more than 1.5 crore families in the state, renal dialysis is the most opted for treatment by policyholders, although the cost of giving a heart patient a stent is several times higher. Between January 2012 and May 2016, more than 2.21 lakh people have undergone dialysis at a cost of `169.72 lakh. The charges do not include the inestimable costs to quality of life among patients with advanced kidney disease. In addition to dialysis, more than 60,000 people have opted for treatment of kidney stones and renal transplant. At least 3,000 people in the state have been wait listed for kidney transplant with the state cadaver transplant registry . “Getting an organ is still not easy. So patients with end-stage renal diseases will have to be on regular dialysis and medicines,“ said nephrologist Dr Georgie Abraham.
ICMR director general Dr Soumya Swaminathan said the Union health ministry has been working with engineers at various IITs to develop solutions for various health problems in India. Tanker Foundation honoured young scientists and doctors with awards for their contribution in the field of nephrology.