The Promise of Nanotechnology for Kidney Dialysis Patients

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 specialist.
      This facility is open 6 days a week and serves 90 patients per day. Our research shows there are approximately
                      1.5 million People receiving dialysis today and those numbers are on the rise.

   Filter                          Diagram of Filter Functions              Needles Used
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 loss.
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 taxpayers.
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 of
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
or implantable
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 amount.
Nephrologists believe this should produce
results comparable to a kidney transplant, returning the patients to robust good health and reducing
medical costs
Future work will involve building a complete membrane, testing it on animals, and humans.

Clinical trials could start by 2010.

  Current Polymer Membranes Smart Membranes
 *Unselective transport  *Smart Membranes
*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

Thank You,
Mr. Mark Leonard, RN
Dr. Allen Nissenson
For all your help with our research.
The Barboursville Middle School
For more information concerning the Wearable Human Nephron Filter Contact:
Martin Edelstein, CEO CTO
LEGO  Links of Linda Hamilton
With support from
NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium.