Dialysis treatment inspired by orange juice machine wins 'engineering Oscars'
A dialysis machine, inspired by orange juice dispensers, that allows kidney failure patients to treat themselves at home and relieve pressure on over-stretched health systems has won the UK’s most prestigious engineering award.
The Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award recognised Quanta Dialysis Technologies SC+ System for fundamentally changing the way patients can access dialysis and dispensing with the need for complicated, time-consuming cleaning between treatments.
“Unlike a traditional dialysis machine that can be the size of a fridge freezer, ours is a small tabletop device about the size of a microwave oven,” CEO of Quanta Dialysis Technologies, John Milad, told Reuters.
“We've designed it to be easy to use so that patients themselves can manage the therapy on their own. Yet it's a high-performance device that provides the standard of care of what traditional large machines are able to do.”
Dialysis is the process of mechanically cleaning blood when the patient's kidneys are no longer functioning properly, and it usually takes for 3 or 4 hours, three times a week.
The SC+ system allows patients to treat themselves at home overnight, meaning they receive more dialysis than they would in hospital and eliminates the gap where patients go without dialysis over a weekend.
“It doesn't feel like I'm on dialysis as much anymore. It's kind of, you know, it's there, but it's not my life. And that's the biggest change for me,” said 21-year-old Lewis Till, a kidney dialysis patient from Wolverhampton, who is able to play video games in his bedroom while using the SC+ system.
The system replaces the traditional plumbing and hardware of a dialysis machine with a disposable cartridge that manages all the fluids, replacing pumps with pneumatic membranes.
“That technology has been proven out in a completely different industry in the beverage dispensing industry,” Milad said.
“In a restaurant that may serve orange juice on demand, one way that they do that is to have a concentrate and to mix that with water, to create the drink at the moment it's needed. And that's actually a similar problem to what a dialysis system needs to do,” he said.
The result is highly accurate fluid management and enhanced distribution within the dialyser itself, which acts as an artificial kidney while minimising crossover between treatments.
Quanta is already working with health providers across the UK and is rolling out in the US where the dialysis market is expected to exceed $12bn.
Previous MacRobert Award winners include Rolls-Royce, Raspberry Pi and Inmarsat.