The project entitled "REDIAL-Redefining hemodialysis with data-driven materials innovation: towards miniaturization and the wearable artificial kidney ", ref: KS_RP_012_20221129 has been approved for funding by Kidney Research UK (£180,644.56).
The PI is prof. Grazia De Angelis and the co-Is are dr. Simone Dimartino from the Institute of Bioengineering and prof. Sotirios Tsaftaris from the Institute of Digital Communications.
The program will last 2 years and will study, using AI and molecular simulation techniques, together with experimental analysis optimal materials for the removal of uremic toxins from dialysate streams with the aim of developing wearable dialysis.
The program is highly interdisciplinary ad combines material science, chemical engineering, bioengineering and artificial intelligence.
Details of the project
Hemodialysis (HD) is a therapy replacing kidney functionality, which has a huge impact on the patients’ life and is not equally accessible to all. Nevertheless, the HD technology has remained unchanged for decades as it is considered safe, and innovations have very long time-to-market.
Our methodology, based on data-driven innovation of materials, has the ambition to redefine hemodialysis, achieving the miniaturization of the technology. This advancement will make home dialysis more accessible and the wearable artificial kidney (WAK) possible, with significant improvements to the patients’ life.
Home dialysis can be carried out more frequently than in the hospital, reducing the stress on the body and the need for strict dietary regime. Home treatment also improves the patients’ lifestyle and makes HD more accessible to those living in remote areas, with mobility issues or with poor heart condition.
Unfortunately, current home HD devices use the same technology as hospital machines and require space and renovations that only a few can afford, besides being energy and water intensive.
Making the HD units more compact, and even transportable or wearable will allow more patients to access home treatment and benefit from its advantages, simultaneously reducing the use of resources and the burden on the NHS.
The miniaturization of HD requires the introduction of a water regeneration device after the dialysis, that purifies the toxin-rich water and recirculates it to the blood cleaning section. The majority of compounds present in dialysate water can be abated with conventional filters, while urea is too small a molecule to be completely depleted with standard filtering materials.
The urea removal has been so far the main technological barrier towards the development of a WAK: previous prototypes adopted a chemical reaction, a method creating by-products that can enter the patient’s blood causing health issues.
We believe that the solution can be achieved without chemicals: recent discoveries provide a wide portfolio of new materials with nanopores that can be potentially be finely tuned to permanently capture urea from water, acting as selective nanosponges.
In particular, we envision a multilayer structure where water is first cleaned from non-urea compounds with a conventional filtering material, and then passes through the innovative nanosponge that depletes the residual urea. Such material has to be safe and not release any harmful component.
The experimental selection of the optimal urea-removing material is time-consuming because it requires to perform tests on many potential candidates. To accelerate the material design and discovery process we will make use of Artificial Intelligence, and in particular of a Machine Learning (ML) algorithm.
Mixed Matrix Membranes Adsorbers (MMMAs) for the Removal of Uremic Toxins from Dialysate, 2022. https://www.mdpi.com/2077-0375/12/2/203
-"In silico screening of nanoporous materials for urea removal in hemodialysis applications" is published on PCCP open access. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37655458/