Dr. Marwa Zein, who created with engineer Sami Dagher the kidney biofilter (The New Arab)
After nearly ten years of efforts, research and experiments, kidney patients in Lebanon and the world are facing a promising innovation that will save them from kidney transplants and painful and costly dialysis sessions, after the success of the Lebanese doctor who specializes in toxicology Marwa Zain, mechanical engineer Sami Dagher and the assistant work team in creating a filter (filter) artificial kidney bioreactor or “bioreactor”.
The importance of the innovation is that it allows to overcome the very complex challenge of how the artificial kidney maintains all the functions of the normal kidney in terms of blood flow, and maintains normal levels of blood pressure, salts and others without blood clotting.
The innovation that complements the path of global progress in the treatment of kidney failure and kidney disease will be announced today, Wednesday, at a medical conference to be held at Sursock Palace in the capital, Beirut, under the auspices of the Lebanese Society of Nephrology and Hypertension. The conference will highlight the success of the first process of implanting an artificial kidney in a human body, and will present the results of studies and research, provided that a joint conference will be organized with the concerned countries at a later time to discuss all the details.
Solve the problem of the artificial kidney
Zain told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that “scientists and researchers succeeded in designing a blood filter or filter consisting of semi-conductive silicone membranes that performs the first function of the kidneys’ functions in terms of removing waste and toxins from the blood, but they have stumbled (since 2012) in finding a solution to the second filter. For artificial kidneys, which is the biofilter that we were able to create.”
“The biofilter contains the cells of the renal tubules (real cells engineered in the laboratory) that carry out the remaining three functions of the kidneys, regulating water intake and salt balance, among other metabolic functions,” Zain explains.
Zain, who has been working in the field of toxicology since 2011, praises “the efforts of the engineer Dagher who adopted the project,” and notes “the support provided by the Belgian doctor John Vandepute in terms of studying tissues and cells in order to understand the function of the kidneys.”
Zain talks about the importance of the innovative bio-filter, explaining, “Patients will be facing a new and promising stage, as they will not need any dialysis session at all, nor will they even have to go through the trouble of looking for a donor for a suitable kidney transplant.”
And she asserts that “it is a serious invention that would contribute to extending the patient’s life and giving him a healthy life, as if he had a normal kidney. Also, the patient would not remain at the mercy of drugs that lower his immunity and thus make him more vulnerable to diseases, especially since the number of kidney patients exceeds 850 million. Patients around the world, including seven million, are in a very critical condition, as they threaten to die at any moment.
Zain added, “There is no doubt that Lebanon will also benefit from this invention, especially in light of the challenges faced by dialysis patients in the country, such as the inability to cover the costs of treatment and the constant suffering of losing medicines.”
A global step forward
For his part, the President of the Lebanese Society of Nephrology and Hypertension and President of the Arab Society of Nephrology, Robert Negm, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed: “We are facing advanced steps in installing artificial kidneys globally, as a promising long-term solution that eliminates patients from needing a kidney transplant or dialysis. This is because its effectiveness is faster than waiting for the results of ongoing research on animal kidneys.
Negm believes that “this invention revives the center of Lebanon and its vital role in the field of medical research, given its human energies, expertise and credibility. It also contributes to reducing the health bill in the distant future, especially since the largest proportion of the budget of health ministries around the world is allocated to dialysis patients. The kidneys account for nearly 30 percent of each budget, even in the United States of America and European countries.”
Najm touches on “what 4,500 dialysis patients in Lebanon suffer from between dialysis and gastric lavage,” pointing to “the challenges of losing the necessary medicines, the issue of lifting subsidies for specific medicines, and hospitals that are no longer able to bear the cost of treatment, not even Paying the price of medical devices and supplies in US dollars, especially since it has been waiting for its dues from the Lebanese state for two years.
Negm continues, “Doctors have also not been paid for two years, which prompted about 30 doctors specializing in kidney diseases to emigrate out of 180 doctors. Also, centers specializing in kidney diseases are threatened with closure due to financial conditions, the lack of doctors and many other challenges.”
Noting that “the patient in Lebanon does not, to date, pay the cost of dialysis sessions, which number approximately 13 sessions per month for each patient, at a cost ranging between 60 and 70 US dollars per session,” Najm warns against “the danger of charging the patient with the full costs of the treatment and paying the fees.” The doctor directly, knowing that he is currently incurring the cost of his monthly examinations, which is approximately one million Lebanese pounds (about 670 dollars according to the official exchange rate, and about 26 dollars according to the exchange rate in the parallel market), while the cost of medicines is no less than five million pounds per month (about 335 dollars). According to the official exchange rate, and about 133 US dollars according to the exchange rate in the parallel market).
The talk about the industrial college had emerged in 2021, as an important shift in the treatment of kidney failure, after the success of the American “The Kidney Project” and being awarded the American Kidney X Foundation award for creating a vital industrial college that promised millions of patients around the world. With the end of the era of dialysis and the arduous wait for the lists of donors. This came after decades of research and studies in the field of biological engineering, according to the American University of California San Francisco platform, when researchers succeeded in proving a prototype of a bio-artificial kidney that can be implanted in the body to perform the main functions of the natural kidney.