/Miniature system-on-chip to improve hemodialysis efficacy

Miniature system-on-chip to improve hemodialysis efficacy

PhD - Leuven | More than two weeks ago

Develop on-chip technology to improve the lives of patients with end stage kidney disease

Hemodialysis (HD) is a life-sustaining kidney replacement therapy that partially replaces glomerular filtration, but not tubular function of the kidney. As such, toxin removal efficiency of conventional HD decreases with molecule size and stops at the size of albumin (which must be retained in the blood). Extra difficult to remove are the so-called protein-bound uremic toxins (PBUTs), due to their strong binding with albumin. PBUTs affect a host of biological systems that contribute to the uremic syndrome, mainly inflammation and cardiovascular damage. PBUTs have also been recently linked to cognitive function decline in CKD patients. Thus, any artificial kidney, either portable, wearable or implantable, would profit from improved PBUT removal.

Research from RWTH Aachen has shown that strong high frequency electromagnetic (EM) fields can shift the dynamic equilibrium of protein-binding for toxins further to a non-bound state, thereby enabling removal of the freed toxins via the dialysis membrane. This core technology has been patented. However, producing such strong EM fields currently requires large and expensive devices, which limits present use to non-portable/non-implantable devices.

The goal of this PhD research will be to miniaturize the electronics needed to shake loose PBUTs with EM fields, creating a miniature system-on-chip so that it can eventually be used in an implantable artificial kidney. A small size and low energy consumption are crucial in this context. In this PhD project the student will investigate whether focusing the EM fields only at the dialysis filter pores is a strategy to be able to use a miniature system-on-chip to improve hemodialysis efficacy. Creating such a system-on-chip will also allow to add other functionality to the artificial kidney, such a monitoring of membrane fouling and ion-selective sensing. The smart integration of such functionality will also be part of this PhD project.

In the first phase of the project, the PhD candidate will be asked to theoretically describe the principle of EM fields to shake loose PBUT from albumin. The student will describe strategies to increase the field strength at the dialysis filter pores and will, both with simulations and lab experiments, describe which frequencies and field strengths will be needed for an optimal clearance of PBUTs. In this first phase there will be a close collaboration with the University Medical Center Utrecht to perform tests in whole blood to measure the efficacy of the solutions. After a clear understanding of the theory and principles the student will be asked to develop a system-on-chip approach that can be integrated on the Si-based filter that IMEC is currently developing. 


Skills and background:

  • Electrical engineering, with special affinity for biomedical applications and physics
  • Ability to devise creative solutions based on and going beyond the state of the art
  • Understanding of CMOS processes
  • System design and implementation
Simulations, prototyping and proof-of-principle experiments

Miniature system-on-chip to improve hemodialysis efficacy

Required background: Electrical engineering (system)


Type of work: 10% literature, 40% system design & test setup building, 50% experimental

Supervisor: Chris Van Hoof

Co-supervisor: Nick Van Helleputte

Daily advisor: Lucas Lindeboom, Geert Langereis

The reference code for this position is 2023-125. Mention this reference code on your application form.

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