UW Medicine, based in Seattle, has launched the Center for Dialysis Innovation, with the aim of improving the treatment of people with advanced kidney disease. The center will combine a comprehensive technical redesign of dialysis therapy with efforts to reduce complications and to enhance opportunities for patient well-being, independence and autonomy in self-care.

Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb and Dr. Buddy Ratner co-direct the new center.  Himmelfarb heads the Kidney Research Institute and is a professor of medicine, Division of Nephrology, at the Univeristy of Washington School of Medicine. Ratner oversees  Univeristy of Washington Bionengineered Materials and is a professor of bioengineering and chemical engineering in the UW College of Engineering.

“We are working to upgrade and substantially improve the entire dialysis system to create safer, faster, more cost-effective dialysis,” said Himmelfarb.  “By bringing physicians, engineers, scientists and kidney patients together, we can address each of the major kidney dialysis complications. The schedule we have set is aggressive, but it is essential that we bring new options to patients as soon as possible.”

Investigators will redesign each component of the dialysis circuit to create a wearable device with low power and water requirements, according to a UW Medicine press release. Such a device would be worn by patients.

“Many patients suffer numerous complications, and on average, in the United States, survive just over three years on dialysis,” said Ratner. “In the developing world, survival is much worse. In many cases, dialysis is not even available, possibly leading to as many as seven million deaths each year. We want to transform dialysis completely by giving patients more freedom and bringing dialysis to people around the globe.”