Wearable Artificial Kidney (W.A.K.)
The use of dialysis to treat those with poorly functioning kidneys has come a long way since 1943 when Willem Johan Kolff built the first working dialyzer. In the intervening years, improvements have been made as technology and medical science advanced. Still, one of the principal drawbacks to dialysis is that the machinery is still bulky and requires the patient having to undergo the procedure at a hospital or medical clinic. This limitation has been overcome by the pioneering work of Dr. Victor Gura, the internationally known kidney specialist, and internist, with the creation of the Wearable Artificial Kidney (WAK™).
The WAK™ is a miniaturized dialysis machine that a patient can wear 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The WAK™ was developed after a decade of research and at a cost of over $30 million. The device has been clinically tested in Europe, and it has the potential to dramatically reduce the costs of treatment for those suffering from kidney disease. The WAK™ can be ergonomically adapted to the patient's body for maximum comfort while being worn. The entire device weighs less than 10 pounds, operates on 9-volt batteries, and uses less than 400 ml of fluid. Compare this to the standard dialysis machine that clocks in at over 300 pounds and uses 120 liters of water. The WAK™ has been designed for continuous use to allow for a far more effective method to remove excess fluids, salt, and toxins from the patient's body.
There are a number of benefits associated with the use of the WAK™ and daily dialysis. These include:
- Daily dialysis normalizes the blood pressure of dialysis patients, which greatly reduces or even eliminates the need for blood pressure medications
- Conventional dialysis treatments do not remove enough salt from the body - but daily dialysis does. The accumulation of excess salt in ESRD patients is a common cause of high blood pressure
- Retaining excess water within the body is a major issue in patients with kidney failure, as they produce little to no urine. This retained fluid accumulates in the lungs causing severe breathing problems. The removal of this fluid through conventional dialysis is uncomfortable and increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. Daily dialysis, as with the WAK™, should alleviate these problems.
- ESRD patients dialyzed with conventional dialysis are often malnourished, which increases the chance of infection and other complications. Daily dialysis has been shown to eliminate malnutrition in ESRD patients. In human and animal studies, the WAK™ has shown the same biochemical effects as daily dialysis, meaning that it is likely to help eliminate malnutrition.
- The WAK™ should be a tremendous boon to patients who live in rural areas. The use of this device should help reduce the hardship and cost it would take to travel distances in order to reach dialysis units.
As stated above, Dr. Gura has used his decades of experience of being a kidney specialist and internist to pioneer the development of the Wearable Artificial Kidney. You can learn more about the WAK™ and its history by visiting the Wearable Artificial Kidney Foundation.