New kidney pacemaker could give years to diabetics

Nephera’s new pacemaker could give patients suffering chronic renal failure a few more years before they have to resort to kidney dialysis.Chronic renal failure (CRF) is basically a death sentence for some 20 million Americans (one in nine adults) who …

Nephera’s new pacemaker could give patients suffering chronic renal failure a few more years before they have to resort to kidney dialysis.Chronic renal failure (CRF) is basically a death sentence for some 20 million Americans (one in nine adults) who are currently afflicted with the condition. Most don’t know they have it, but a diagnosis of CRF eventually leads to end-stage renal disease. All roads at this point end in dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Dialysis is costly, not only to the healthcare system, but to the body, with survival rates not longer than five or six years. Although transplants are the optimal course of action, they are limited by donor organ availability and extreme side effects.

This is where Israel’s Nephera steps in. The company has developed a solution that could be “revolutionary,” says Steve Rhodes, CEO of Misgav Venture Accelerator, the organization investing in Nephera’s technology.

Rhodes says Nephera has invented a “pacemaker for a kidney,” which can extend the life of a kidney before final solutions such as transplants and dialysis need to be taken.

Established by world-renowned nephrologists from Israel, Nephera maintains and improves the functioning of the kidneys in people with CRF: “It’s a bridge to transplantation,” Rhodes tells ISRAEL21c.

Studies have found that Nephera’s solution — an implant based on a small pump — could increase the perfusion rate of a dying kidney from 30 up to 60 percent. In the body, Nephera’s implanted device can last four to five years. It works by creating a negative pressure around the kidney (a vacuum effect), causing an increase in renal blood flow. This has a therapeutic effect on a diseased kidney.

Increased pressure, the company explains, improves “the glomerular filtration rate,” an indicator that shows a kidney’s ability to filter out metabolites.

If clinical studies go according to plan, the new implant could be available in Europe in as little as three years (with CE mark), while FDA approval for the US market will take more time.

Founded just this year, Nephera is the first company in the world to develop a device that not only maintains, but improves renal functioning in CRF patients, says the company. This is good news for those who have the condition, and also for the increased numbers of diabetics and people suffering from hypertension that may be diagnosed with CFR in the near future.

Nephera has done initial studies on animal models and is aiming for larger studies to commence by the end of 2008. The company’s CEO is Gill Bar-Yoseph, who has an MBA and an electrical engineering degree from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. He previously worked for Philips Medical Systems and at Ophthalmic Imaging Systems.

The global market to treat CRF is expected to surge to $73 billion by 2011, a few short years away. The company could also alleviate the heavy burden of CRF on America’s healthcare system.

With the cost of a kidney transplant at about $100,000, and the risks involved, Nephera could extend the lives and possibilities for people before they need to walk down that road.

About Karin Kloosterman

Karin Kloosterman lives in Jaffa, Israel. She is a journalist, writer and blogger who focuses on the environment and clean technology from Israel and the Middle East. Published in hundreds of newspapers around the world, Karin also writes for the Huffington Post and Green Prophet.