End-stage renal disease, or chronic kidney failure, affects more than 500,000 people per year in the U.S. alone, and currently is only fully treated with a kidney transplant. That number has been rising between five to seven percent per year and with just 17,000 donated kidneys available for transplant last year the waiting list currently exceeds 85,000, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network. Those who can’t secure a kidney for transplant are left reliant on kidney dialysis. An expensive and time consuming process that typically requires three sessions per week, for three to five hours per session, in which blood is pumped through an external circuit for filtration. In a development that could one day eliminate the need for dialysis, researchers have unveiled a prototype model of the first implantable artificial kidney.
A fashion statement it may not be, but the Wearable Artificial Kidney (WAK) could prove a very smart accessory for those with serious kidney disease. A miniaturized dialysis machine that can be worn as a belt, the WAK concept allows patients with end stage renal failure the freedom to engage in daily activity while undergoing uninterrupted dialysis treatment.