Like father, like son – pioneering ambitions to help Pakistan’s renal patients

28 April 2016

Pakistan’s spiraling death rate due to chronic kidney disease could be dramatically reduced by a pioneering hemodialysis mixing and delivery process, a University of Sydney masters researcher alleged at the IET Present Around the World Competition  held on Friday in Perth.

 Taha Shakoh represented NSW showcasing his improvement on a simple mixing and central delivery system currently used in kidney dialysis.

There is a dire need to cut down the cost of hemodialysis, a life-saving treatment
Taha Shakoh, Master in Electrical Engineering student

“The novelty with my project is that it is a mixing and central delivery system for dialysis concentrates which further cuts down on the costs as after the mixing,” he explained to the IET judging panel.

“In my proposed system, the solution is transferred to a central drum from where it is automatically transferred to all the dialysis machines in the clinic and therefore the patients.

This eliminates the need to carry the solution in a canister after mixing, all the way to the machine and since the system is closed, also making it much more hygienic.”

The international student from Pakistan, who qualified as an embedded systems and micro-controller engineer at Lahore University of Management Sciences, says he was inspired by his father’s pioneering work on hemodialysis concentrates.

“I grew up watching my doctor father set about solving the problem of access to renal health care and was determined to support his endeavours.

“End stage kidney disease patients in developing nations, as elsewhere in the world, have only two options for survival: transplant or dialysis,” Taha said.

“The primary issue in developing economies such as Pakistan, India or Nepal is the cost of dialysis can be prohibitive for the majority of people living with the condition,” he said.

“In developing countries, 80-90 percent of end stage kidney disease patients die as result of their lower socioeconomic status – they simply cannot afford the cost of treatment.

“So there is a dire need to cut down the cost of hemodialysis, a life-saving treatment,” he said.

“Hemodialysis is a process for removing waste products and excess water from the blood and is used as a replacement for lost kidney function. The dialyzer has two compartments separated by a semi-permeable membrane.

“One compartment runs the patient's blood and the other runs the dialysate. The dialysate is a solution containing the correct mixture of ions for diffusion with the patient’s blood.

“Manufacturing and transporting the dialysis solution is expensive, largely due to its volume and weight.

“My answer has been to create a process whereby the powder concentrate can be transported cheaply and rehydrated at the patients’ bedside.

“Powder form has lower volume and weight, so takes up moderate storage space and incurs lower freight, packaging and handling costs. It is also more hygienic.

“My vision is for low cost mixer devices, to convert the powder back into solution form, placed at the dialysis centre in Pakistan as soon as possible. I then want to see them supplied to other countries experiencing an increase in CKD areas such as Nepal and central Africa.”

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is the world’s largest multidisciplinary professional engineering institution. Competitors in the IET’s global event are required to give a 10 minute presentation on an engineering or technology related subject, followed by a five-minute Q&A. Judging is based on both presentation skills and content.

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Victoria Hollick

Media and Public Relations Adviser
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