The Promise of Nanotechnology for Kidney Dialysis
November 7, 2006
Today our team visited the J. Robert Pritchard Kidney
Dialysis Center in Huntington, West Virginia
Our goal is to see how nanotechnology can improve
the dialysis process. So we began our quest by seeing how kidney
dialysis is being performed today.
We were given a tour of the facility by Mark Leonard, RN, who is a dialysis
This facility is open
6 days a week and serves 90 patients per day. Our research shows there
1.5 million People receiving dialysis today and those numbers are on the
Diagram of Filter Functions
He began by showing us the artificial kidney filter and
how the blood is taken out of the body,
Impurities are removed in the filter and the cleaned
blood is returned to the body.
Do you know the number one cause of kidney failure? Diabetes,
and next is high blood pressure.
This accounts for 80% of all dialysis patients.
Some 5% of kidney disease is heredity and there is not
much you can do about that, but for the rest of us,
We can decrease our chances of kidney failure by eating
right and exercising.
So get off that couch!
We were taken to the dialysis room and allowed to observe
the patients receiving dialysis but were
not permitted to take pictures there. One patient was
gracious enough to let us feel the place on
her arm where the blood goes in and you could feel it
moving very fast.
This is a close up look at the filter used in the
dialysis machine. Can you see the pores in the filter?
Here he is showing us a dialysis machine. It has a
computer screen that shows how much blood is being filtered and
how much waste has been removed. All the tubes the
blood goes through and the filter are on the outside of the
machine. There is an intake tube and an outlet tube
attached to the filter and hoses that carry the waste out to a drain.
There is never more than one cup of blood in the filter
at a time, so if an emergency should arise the patient can be
disconnected from the machine without a lot of blood
He also showed us the water purification center. They
use the same purification system that Dasani Water uses.
All the water used in dialysis has to be purified,
removing the chlorine, fluoride and other chemicals
that we have in our tap water. Even though we can
drink it, unpurified water would
be fatal in our blood stream.
First the water is heated, run through filters, stored
in a storage tank and then is sent to
a container where the dialysis solution is mixed for each patient�s needs.
The utility bills to run this center are about
$100,000.00 a month. WOW!
Next, he is showing us the machine that sends the
capsule he is holding through an underground
tunnel to the hospital next door. This tunnel
is used to send blood samples or to get medicines that
are needed in a hurry.
The cost for one patient to receive dialysis is about
$60,000.00 per year.
Everyone on dialysis is put on Medicare, which costs
The patient must come to the center 3 times a week.
Now, for the promise of nanotechnology -
According to an article written by Dr. Allen Nissenson
the UCLA Medical Center, in
Los Angeles, CA
Thanks to nanotechnology researchers have developed
an important part of the first fully functioning
Artificial kidney. They have created a human Nephron
filter the size of a paperback book; small enough to be portable
A Wearable Human Nephron Filter
(Picture of a prototype (artist�s rendering), provided
by Dr. Nissenson)
The experimental equipment has two membranes that work
in series within one cartridge.
The first membrane performs the function of the glomerulus,
and the second mimics the renal tubules.
The membranes filter and process blood, discharging waste
and water into a bag (an external bladder)
and returning substances such as sodium, calcium, and
nutrients to the body. Patients using the device
wouldn't need dialysis or kidney transplantation
In computer model tests, the researchers found that operating
12 hours per day for 7 days, the device
offers a glomerular filtration rate of 30 ml/minute.
Conventional hemodialysis performed 3 times
per week provides a filtration rate that is half that
Nephrologists believe this should produce
results comparable to a kidney transplant, returning
the patients to robust good health and reducing
Future work will involve building a complete membrane,
testing it on animals, and humans.
Clinical trials could start by 2010.
| Current Polymer Membranes
| *Unselective transport
|*Wide distribution of pore sizes
||* Predetermined / controlled pore size
|*No opportunity for precise atomic placement
||* Atomically engineered pore size/functionality
| *Relatively thick, often low flux
||*Ultra- thin active filtration layer
Mr. Mark Leonard, RN
Dr. Allen Nissenson
For all your help with our research.
The Barboursville Middle School
FIRST LEGO LEAGUE
For more information concerning the Wearable Human Nephron
Martin Edelstein, CEO CTO