After more than 50 years of near-standstill, renal medicine is ready for major technological leaps forward. With microelectronics & nanotechnology as powerful ingredients.
Around 10 percent of the world’s population has some form of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). But most affected people don’t even realize they have it.
CKD knows several stages with progressive severity. Due to the vagueness of the early-stage symptoms, it’s often only detected when it already progressed to stage 3. Once in stage 5, patients die, unless they get a kidney transplant or receive frequent dialysis treatments.
Chronic dialysis patients must literally schedule their life around their therapy. Unfortunately, current dialysis technologies:
It’s no wonder that millions of people are yearning for new solutions that enhance their quality of life. Moreover, the International Society for Nephrology (ISN) and the WHO estimate that about 75% of people that need a kidney transplant or dialysis don’t even have access to the existing means of therapy.
Therefore, lower costs, higher portability and better functionality are all needed.
On June 12, 2020, imec hosted an online meeting of international experts on how to improve the lives of kidney patients through wearable and implantable technologies. Watch the video of the full meeting.
During the first decades after the second world war, the artificial kidney was one of the most exciting medical advances. But since then, renal dialysis technology has barely changed. What are the reasons for this standstill in innovation?
The answer to these challenges lies in increased cooperation to actively stimulate innovation. This is why the Kidney Health Initiative (KHI) – a public-private partnership that unites patients, health professionals, research organizations and industry – developed an international innovation roadmap for new approaches to renal replacement therapy (RRT).
Imec is a KHI member and involved in the ongoing actualization of this roadmap, by sharing its decades of experience in technology road mapping within semiconductor technology with the Renal community.
While the developments in renal replacement technology slowed down, the semiconductor industry boomed. Electronic devices became cheaper, smaller and more powerful – up to the point where we all have a computer in our pockets.
This reduction in price and size of electronics also led to the development of connected health solutions: wearable, ingestible or implantable devices that:
It’s obvious that such technologies offer great benefits to renal care. For instance, unobtrusive wearable devices can collect longitudinal multiparameter data, to facilitate earlier diagnosis and help adhering to a healthier lifestyle.
The international KHI roadmap for innovative approaches to renal replacement therapy (RRT) lists advanced technologies from other fields (e.g., sensors, nanotechnology, novel materials) as enablers that can bring us closer to a portable or implantable artificial kidney.
Imec is at the heart of this, in close cooperation with the Dutch Kidney Foundation as well as the European Kidney Health Alliance (EKHA) and the broader community for kidney research and development of devices. Together with Fiocruz Brazil and Harvard Universtity, imec investigated the expectations of 1566 experts regarding Kidney Replacement Therapy.
For instance, imec researches how its on-chip fluid sensors can be used to monitor, on a personal level, the electrolyte balance during a dialysis treatment. Imec realized a complete multiparameter monitor on a 4.4x4.4-mm chip. And we enable wearable bio-impedance spectroscopy, to monitor the moisture balance during hemodialysis and during daily activities.
Want to work with us on the renal dialysis technologies of tomorrow?
An electronic device that’s comfortably connected to the human body needs to be as compact as possible. That’s why imec’s assists you in the development of biomedical systems-on-chip that strive for an unparalleled integration of essential functions, while maintaining medical-grade fidelity.