Artificial kidney in development by Kitchener startup

A startup company in Kitchener is developing an artificial kidney in hopes of improving the lives and survival rates of patients with kidney failure.

Qidni Labs wants to improve the lives and survival rate of patients with kidney failure

Morteza Ahmadi holds up one of the first prototypes his company developed for an implantable kidney. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

Qidni Labs, a startup company based in downtown Kitchener, is building an artificial kidney and portable dialysis machine to help improve the lives and survival rates of kidney failure patients. 

The artifical kidney is an implantable device that can operate like a human kidney and remove toxins and excess water from blood. 

One of the ways they're attempting to do this is through decellurization — removing the old cells from donated pig kidneys — leaving a "scaffold" on which new cells can be grown.  

A version of the artificial kidney, built based on the 'scaffolding' of a pig's kidney, sits on a shelf at the Qidni Lab office in downtown Kitchener. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

"You end up with a kidney that can hopefully be transplated in the patient without rejection," said Morteza Ahmadi, a doctorate gradute from the University of Waterloo and founder of Qidni Labs.

The wait list to get a kidney transplant is long; for every 100,000 people waiting for a kidney donor, only 20,000 are available for implantation. 

"This is such a huge problem with just the small number of supply for just transplantation," Ahmadi said.

A wearable dialysis machine 

In addition to an artificial kidney, Qidni Labs is also building a wearable dialysis machine.

Typically, patients with end stage renal disease, or kidney failure, have to be hooked to a dialysis machine for four hours three times a week to have their blood filtered.

"The biggest thing patients want is the freedom to travel, that's what they talk about most," said Clarence Graansma, who worked in dialysis at Grand River Hospital for 30 years before moving to Qidni Labs. 

"They want to move around while they dialyze, rather than sit in a chair all the time," Graansma said.

"They can probably work, go out for a walk, be more mobile," Ahmadi said. 

"Hopefully in a few years we can commercialized the product, change the whole industry and remove some pain for families and patients." 

Qidni Labs is currently testing their products on animals. Ahmadi said within 20 months, they should be able to test the artifical kidney on human patients.