People these days are being victims of chronic kidney diseases and their conditions get so worse that they need to be sustained by dialysis machines which are time consuming and very expensive. Patients need to spend hours glued to the hospital bed, which would cease to exist with the arrival of artificial kidneys, probably by the end of decade.
The artificial kidney that is being developed in the US will have to undergo a series of scrutiny, tests and trials on patients in the US before it is approved by the FDA, University of California San Francisco researcher Dr Shuvo Roy, co-inventor of the device, said at the Tanker annual charity and awards night on Wednesday.
The artificial kidney that would be attached in the abdomen of the patient, powered by the heart, structured to clean the blood and perform all the functions of a normal kidney, which includes the production of hormones. Unlike conventional haemodialysis, which merely filters toxins from the blood, artificial kidney has a membrane that filters the blood and a bioreactor comprising living kidney cells that are exposed to the blood during dialysis. "It performs the job of a kidney more holistically than just conventional dialysis," he said.
The final stage of chronic kidney disease, called end-stage renal disease, is when the kidneys are no longer able to remove enough wastes and excess fluids from the body. At this point, patients are put on dialysis, sometimes up to three times a week, as a bridge to transplant. Increasing incidence of diabetes and hypertension has been pushing up chronic kidney disease among many patients.
At least 2.5 lakh people in India die due to kidney diseases every year. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two most common causes and account for most cases. The cost of treating end-stage kidney disease through dialysis or a kidney transplant is enormous.
Between January 2012 and May 2016, more than 2.21 lakh people have undergone dialysis at a cost of Rs 169.72 lakh in Tamil Nadu. The charges do not include the inestimable costs to quality of life among patients with advanced kidney disease. In addition to dialysis, more than 60,000 people have opted for treatment of kidney stones and renal transplant.
At least 3,000 people in the state have been waitlisted for kidney transplant with the state cadaver transplant registry. "Getting an organ is still not easy. So patients with end-stage renal diseases will have to be on regular dialysis and medicines," said nephrologist Dr Georgie Abraham.
Although Roy wasn't able to give patients a ballpark figure on cost, he said it will be much less than regular dialysis and transplant.
ICMR director general Dr Soumya Swaminathan said the Union health ministry has been working with engineers at various IITs to develop solutions for various health problems in India. Tanker Foundation honoured young scientists and doctors with awards for their contribution in the field of nephrology.