Advanced Treatment for Kidney Disease
Until the early 1950s, there was very little known about kidney disease and much less about treating it. That is until Ada DeBold, the mother of a small child suffering from a condition called nephrosis, which is caused by kidney disease, turned things around. Though her child lost his battle, her advocacy would save millions. Through her efforts, she called attention to the plight of others suffering from what was once a death sentence, and was instrumental in raising significant funding needed for research.
Since then there have been a number of life-saving advances made in the treatment of kidney disease that include dialysis and kidney transplantation. But with the advent of new technology at researchers’ disposal, there are endless possibilities for groundbreaking new treatments that will revolutionize and perhaps, cure the disease.
At the University of Nottingham in the U.K., a group of researchers is using MRI techniques to get detailed pictures of how the kidneys are performing and how they work. The hope is that scanning might replace surgery, as a way of studying and testing for kidney disease. In this case a picture will very well be worth a thousand words.
In Japan, at the International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics, National Institute for Materials Science, scientists are busy at work developing a cheap way to remove toxins and waste from the blood of kidney disease patients using “easy-to-produce nanofiber mesh,” on a device that can be worn. This lessens the possibility of lives lost if hospital power is interrupted or facilities are damaged by natural or man made catastrophes that prevent access to dialysis machines. The scientists are certain that the “mesh could be incorporated into a blood purification product small enough to be worn on a patient’s arm, reducing the need for expensive, time-consuming dialysis.”
Other developing areas that show unique promise include stem-cell research. Scientists believe this could play a very big role in identifying innovative treatments that could far outweigh those currently in use, and make up for the lack of available donor transplant organs. Those involved in embryonic stem cell research are also looking at adult kidney stem cells as having important properties not yet fully identified but they feel strongly that it won’t be long before they uncover major findings in these studies.
But perhaps one of the most exciting new developments is the creation of an implantable artificial kidney. The device filters waste and toxins from the body in the same way that a healthy kidney does. Last year the FDA put the artificial kidney project on fast track and targeted trials are scheduled for 2017. When the device is approved, it will revolutionize the treatment of kidney disease. It will cut back on expensive dialysis treatment and will most certainly reduce nationwide medical costs related to kidney disease, currently estimated at $40 billion a year. Other organizations are also involved in developing similar devices, including one that can be implanted or worn outside the body.
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