An Alternative To Dialysis: The Nanofiber Web

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.

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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.

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Is automated peritoneal dialysis recommended?

Many patients who need a dialysis treatment to control kidney failure must decide between two options. The first one, best-known as ‘hemodialysis,’ is the first image that pops into the minds of people when it comes to dialysis. This procedure consists of connecting the patient to a machine that fulfills the same functions as the kidneys: filtering the blood and eliminating the excess of fluids from the body. For this reason, it is necessary that patients go a couple of times a week to a hospital or to a specialized center, and lay down while the machine does its work. This is not the only option, though. There is also peritoneal dialysis. Despite this treatment does not differ essentially from hemodialysis, offers certain conveniences to patients that hemodialysis cannot allow. One of them is that patients do not have to plug into a machine or move to a hospital for doctors to monitor their health status.

Automated peritoneal dialysis is fundamentally not different from traditional peritoneal dialysis. This system uses the same type of catheters, and the kidney function is carried out in the same way. The difference is related the way in which the process is carried out. In automated peritoneal dialysis, a machine controls the development of the renal function. This means how much liquid gets into the bag and is ejected when the filtration process is over. In this way, patients do not have to worry about how much liquid they have added to the bag, and the machine is responsible for reminding patients when they should start a cycle in advance.

The filtering process takes about eight hours, but it may extend to ten, especially when patients are sleeping. One of the functions of the machine, in addition to calculating the amount of liquid that gets into the bag, is measuring the time of infusion, permanence, and drainage, and in a very safe way, which gives a lot of peace to both patients and doctors.

Read also: Dialysis most common complications, by Joe Cosgrove

The machines used for this procedure are not large. The biomedical engineering that has worked been behind the studies of automated peritoneal dialysis has made these machines fit in a small suitcase, which, although it may be heavy, has wheels and can be carried anywhere. The machine can be used almost anywhere (an airplane, for example.) One of the great advantages of this system is that the machine keeps a record of the activity from the beginning of the treatment, which can be observed by the doctor even without the patient moving to the hospital. This system is connected to the Internet. This means, in a few words, that the machine is permanently gathering information from the patient and transmitting it through the cloud. The doctor only has to use a device with an Internet connection to check the patient’s condition (it may be an app in his or her smartphone.)

The latter is a great advantage for doctors because the patient does not have to make any report. The system is responsible for producing the necessary information for the doctor to evaluate the patient’s conditions. Even some software systems are designed so that the machine tells the doctor if the patient is presenting problems that must be resolved urgently (the first symptoms of peritonitis, for example) and that patients may not detect in time, meaning this a great danger to their health.


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Automated peritoneal dialysis, in addition to being very useful for the health of patients, is also useful for medical research in this field. Because the number of patients suffering from kidney failure increases every year, doctors are very concerned about finding new ways to solve this problem. For this, it is tremendously important to have a large amount of information available.

Some doctors wonder if this system is recommended. The truth is that it is. There are studies showing that automated peritoneal dialysis is related to a much higher survival rate than the traditional peritoneal dialysis system. The reason for this is that the machines can calculate much more accurately the amounts of liquid that the patients need, as well as the filtering and expulsion times. The medical community knows that the more customized the treatments, the results will be much better since every organism is different and may react differently to the general conditions of any treatment. This is the case. On the other hand, one of the main problems that occur in peritoneal dialysis are infections, which has been resolved in a large percentage thanks to automation and its monitoring. The behavior of blood pressure is also another problem, and the study mentioned above shows that medical science is ready to reduce this issue to almost the minimum. There is still much to be discovered in terms of peritoneal dialysis, but the truth is that it is progressing so fast thanks to the data provided by patients. Let’s hope for the best.

Recommended: Do Automated Peritoneal Dialysis and Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis Have the Same Clinical Outcomes?

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Dialysis most common complications

The procedure known as dialysis has been created so that the elimination of toxins and the excess of liquids in the body is possible; a function that, in healthy patients, carries out the renal system (kidneys, in particular.) Even though dialysis is so far the best-known option to treat kidney disease, and despite the fact that the biomedical technology makes all its efforts in considerably improving this system, it is still not possible to execute processes of error-proof dialysis. Unfortunately, complications can occur during the process, which can even negatively affect the health condition of patients. In this post, we will talk about the most frequent complications that can occur during dialysis.

In extracorporeal dialysis, the processes in which blood is removed from the body, complications are not as common. However, it is possible that an arteriovenous fistula infection may occur. Since the fistula is punctured three to four times a week to purify the blood, the risk of infection by bacteria in the puncture site is high. In addition, there is the possibility that thrombi form that obstructs the blood vessel and renders it unusable for dialysis. However, as a general rule, a surgical intervention allows the thrombus to be removed and the fistula to be unblocked.

In peritoneal dialysis, in which the blood is purified inside the body, there is a risk of inflammation of the peritoneum. Bacteria enter the peritoneal cavity through the catheter and cause a painful infection that, under certain circumstances, may endanger the life of patients. Normally, this inflammation responds well to treatment with antibiotics, but sometimes it is not that simple.

People with severe kidney disorders and kidney failure must pay great attention to their diet since many of the complications suffered by dialysis patients are related to food. Since the kidneys are not able to carry out their function of purification and excretion, in many cases those affected can only drink a limited amount of liquid. In addition, they must be careful with the contribution of protein and potassium, since an excess of these substances may lead to serious metabolic disorders in dialysis patients.

Read also: Baxter ShareSource System: A New Dialysis Option for You, by Joe Cosgrove

People with impaired renal function often have a high concentration of phosphate in the blood which may cause damage to blood vessels, such as arteriosclerosis. When the concentration of this is too high, despite having a low phosphate diet, so-called phosphate binders are helpful, they bind to the phosphate ingested with food in the gastrointestinal tract and are subsequently excreted. There are various types of phosphate binders, for example, containing aluminum or calcium, or free of both, which effectively improve the altered balance of minerals in dialysis patients. According to recent scientific findings, it seems that calcium-free phosphate binders are the ones that cause fewer side effects. Nowadays, the use of phosphate binders with aluminum content is no longer recommended due to the adverse effects that they may cause. A treatment with this type of medicine – for many years – may produce an accumulation of aluminum in the brain and bones which leads to worsening brain function and movement limitations.

In order to prevent possible infections of hepatitis B and C, and even HIV, through dialysis, the medical centers in which this treatment is carried out meet the strictest hygienic standards for the cleaning of dialysis machines. People suffering from these type of infections are treated in their own dialysis machines which are not used with any other patients. In addition, active vaccination against hepatitis B is recommended to all dialysis patients.


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There are other complications related to hemodialysis. Intradialytic arterial hypertension is less frequent than arterial hypotension, but it has relevant prognostic implications. Fever and chills in patients on hemodialysis should be attributed to endovascular infections, especially in those who have vascular access through a high-flow venous catheter. Likewise, fever at the end of the hemodialysis treatment is suggestive of endovascular infection.

On the other hand, hypervolemia is a complication that occurs regularly. This happens when the patient consumes more fluid than the one he manages to eliminate thanks to dialysis. Hypervolemia can also develop in response to sodium retention in the body due to impaired electrolyte excretion. In nephrological practice, hypervolemia due to sodium retention is observed in acute ophthalmic syndrome, in the oliguric phase of acute renal failure, due to the consumption of large amounts of fluid and obstruction of the urinary tract with volume-dependent hypertension. This problem usually leads to weight gain, and, when not treated in time, can be deadly because heart failure may occur.

Taking into account that during the last decades there has been an increase in cases of renal replacement therapy for different diseases, and, additionally, considering the increase in infections that are difficult to treat, mainly due to the widespread abuse of analgesics by professionals and patients who self-medicate (and who do not know how to differentiate a virus from a bacterial infection,) it is vital to know the different treatment modalities in these patients as well as the complications that can occur in practice.

Recommended: Infections in Patients Undergoing Chronic Dialysis

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