As per discussed in previous articles by Joe Cosgrove, the main role of the kidneys is to act as a filter capable of separating waste products from the blood, thusly turning them into urine. However, this process, although present in every individual’s daily life, might represent a dreary situation when their kidneys are compromised. Individuals who have kidney failure struggle at getting rid of the accumulation of waste products in the blood.
The process that helps them get rid of this build-up is called dialysis, which has been previously covered in this blog; however, dialysis is also a nagging process, oftentimes rather expensive, which is why not every single individual can access it easily.
Now, after years of research, physicians and researchers have created an alternative. They have come up with a nanofiber that may serve as a cheaper alternative to the process in question, thusly enabling a bigger of portion of individuals to access kidney treatment much easier.
Although kidney dialysis is perhaps the most famous and common treatment for individuals with any degree of kidney failure, it is also known that the very nature of the procedure involves the use of auxiliary machines, either at a medical facility or, in some cases, at home, that serves as an aid filtering the waste and toxins from a person’s blood, thusly mimicking a healthy, normal kidney. However, researchers at the International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics say that, given the fact that dialysis as people know it requires electricity for the machines to function properly, it is quite difficult to make it available in poorer locations and areas where electricity fluctuates. Besides, dialysis machines require careful maintenance, and sometimes it is rather impossible to either find someone capable of keeping the machines functioning or have someone commute from far away to do it.
Additionally, areas known for their natural disasters, such as Chile or Japan, require alternatives to the procedure for, in the aftermath of these eventualities, many individuals have to go without treatment until normal medical services are reestablished. Having this in mind, researchers at MANA embarked themselves on the journey to develop a much cheaper, wearable way of filtering toxins in the blood of individuals with any degree of kidney failure. As mentioned above, the result was the creation of a nanofiber web.
During the creation process, physicians and researchers first set out to combine blood-compatible polymers made from EVOH alongside a variety of zeolite and minerals mostly made of oxygen, aluminum, silicon and other materials. The aforementioned zeolites have microscopical structures capable of absorbing the toxins and the waste that accumulates in the blood. Afterwards, researchers put in practice a low-cost method commonly referred to as electrospinning—a method that uses electrical charges to develop the web.
After having tested the web on its ability to absorb several waste products such as creatinine from the blood, researchers and physicians discovered that for the web to properly serve as a reliable alternative, a specific combination of aluminum and silicon within the aforementioned zeolites is necessary for it to absorb the highest amount of waste products from the blood. This composition of fibers and materials have proven to have enough potential to be considered as a new, cheaper way to remove waste products from the bloodstream without the intricacies commonly associated to regular and traditional dialysis, and without the inexorable need of additional equipment and specialized machines.
And even though the web is still in early stages, the findings seem to be promising. Researchers assert that it is possible that the web could be tailored as a blood purification product that would be accessible for a larger portion of individuals suffering from kidney failure and any degree of kidney disease. Additionally, the device has been initially conceived as a wearable, much cheaper alternative, for the idea is to also save people money and time. Moreover, the team at MANA strongly believe this development is quite feasible, and that it would totally change kidney treatment as the world knows it for it would pose a different way to approach kidney failure treatments.
Alongside this web, there are other developments in progress given the complexity of making dialysis less nagging and more accessible for individuals with kidney failure. An artificial kidney, for instance, is in the works. It would be capable to extract waste from the bloodstream just like healthy kidneys do. Other institutions set out to explore other alternatives as the use of pig kidneys as the substrate to develop and build human kidneys by providing them with a shot of stem cells. Theoretically, the stem cells would “colonize” the pig kidney, thusly making it available for human transplant.
Be that as it may, as dialysis becomes more and more expensive and difficult to access, the scientific community is working hard to come up with an alternative in hopes of making kidney treatments cheaper and less demanding in terms of time, consequences and quality of life.
* Featured Image courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels.com