August 19, 2019
2 min read

Symposium on artificial kidneys opens discussion, debate on alternative devices

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Buddy Ratner

SEATTLE — With the theme, “Messages from the past illuminate our path to the future,” Buddy Ratner, PhD, co-director of the Center for Dialysis Innovation at the University of Washington, opened the Innovations in Dialysis: Expediting Advances Symposium here with a focus on exploring new approaches to wearable, portable and implantable dialysis technology.

The symposium, which runs through Tuesday on the University of Washington’s campus, is sponsored by the Center for Dialysis Innovation (CDI). The mission of the organization since opening its doors in 2017 has been to “improve the health and well-being of people with advanced kidney disease initiating and receiving dialysis treatment,” and to develop “a dialysis therapy that will be complication free, and completely restorative of kidney health.”

“We’re developing new paradigms to treat end-stage kidney disease,” Jonathan Himmelfarb, MD, CDI co-director told Healio/Nephrology. He is leading a group of CDI investigators on developing the center’s own Ambulatory Kidney to Improve Vitality (AKTIV), a wearable, miniaturized dialysis system. “This is not curative or regenerative medicine; this is still renal replacement therapy. The goal is to develop a treatment that will bring you back to a level of kidney health that allows you to live your life the way you want to live it,” he said.

Jonathan Himmelfarb

CDI focuses its research efforts on wearable, portable and implantable dialysis technologies.

“While there has been limited progress since chronic hemodialysis was launched 57 years ago in Seattle, there have been significant innovations advancing dialysis technology,” according to information on the center’s website. “[Innovations in Dialysis: Expediting Advances Symposium] IDEAS brings together researchers, physicians, industry representatives and government officials committed to improving outcomes and reducing costs for people with end-stage kidney disease.”

Himmelfarb said registrations are almost double that of last year’s attendance.

“We have refined the program (from last year), but the basic concept is still the same: Bring together in one place as many of the innovators in dialysis from around the world and get them to talk to each other,” he said.

Some of these goals align with the recently introduced Advancing American Kidney Health initiative, which calls for government support of wearable kidney technology. Likewise, the aim of the KidneyX project, funded by HHS and the American Society of Nephrology, is to reward innovators who are looking at alternative ways to treat kidney disease.

“It’s a dynamic atmosphere,” Himmelfarb told Healio/Nephrology.

The agenda for this year’s symposium covers a variety of topics. Dean Kamen, president of DEKA Research & Development Corp., the company that has developed a new home dialysis machine now undergoing U.S. trials, opens the program with a talk on evolving technologies. Karin Hehenberger, MD, PhD, CEO and founder of the company Lyfebulb, will present the inaugural Bill Peckham Lecture on the importance of patient engagement and innovation in today's health care environment. Lyfebulb connects those affected by chronic disease, including patients, loved ones and caregivers, with each other to share experiences and insights, raise awareness and improve quality of life.

Other topics include improving clearance of uremic toxins while reducing the use of dialysate, new access techniques and presentations by winners of the KidneyX competition. – by Mark E. Neumann


Disclosure: Himmelfarb reports he is the co-director of the Center for Dialysis Innovation.