At-Home Dialysis Machine Hopes to Save Time and Resources

One high school student’s science project could improve treatment for those with kidney disease.
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One high school student’s science project could improve treatment for those with kidney disease.
Anya Pogharian

Photo courtesy of Anya Pogharian

Reading dialysis manuals might not sound like typical Friday-night fun for high school students, but one Canadian teenager took her school assignment to the next level in hopes of helping patients suffering from kidney failure.

Devoted student Anya Pogharian logged 300 hours creating a prototype for an at-home dialysis machine that favors simplicity over high-tech computerized machines.

Hemodialysis is a common treatment for those with kidney disease. Also known as renal replacement therapy, the dialysis machine cleans a patient’s blood outside the body through a series of filters. Patients sit in hospital rooms for three to four hours at a time and often require such treatment three times a week.

“It takes a lot of energy out of them,” Pogharian, who volunteered at a hospital dialysis unit, told CBC News. “They’re very tired after a dialysis treatment.”

While Pogharian’s machine won’t cut down on the time of actual dialysis, it will eliminate the multiple treks to the hospital.

“It's not necessarily easy to make your way to the hospital three times a week, especially if you have limited mobility,” Pogharian said.

Some suppliers offer in-home services, but most patients cannot afford to own a standard machine with its $30,000 price tag. Pogharian’s will cost about $500.

Along with the potential to help patients locally, Pogharian is also interested in the possible global impact of the machine. The cheaper, portable option could help those in developing nations with little access to hospitals.

But first, she has to test it out on some real blood. She’ll have the opportunity to do so this summer with help from Héma-Québec, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing innovative blood treatments.