If you are one of the 370,000 Americans who lack functioning kidneys, you are all too familiar with the exhausting procedure of kidney dialysis.
Three or four times every week, you visit a special clinic and sit for four hours as your blood is removed, cleaned and returned to your body.
Fatigue is your chronic companion. You may also experience low blood pressure, difficulty eating, muscle cramps and weight loss. And your arms and legs may be marked by numerous "port" sites from which your blood has been drawn.
All this you endure, for without dialysis to clean the toxins from your blood as your kidneys once did, you would not live more than a few days.
Today, however, hope is on the horizon if not for a reprieve from dialysis, then at least for relief from its onerous side-effects.
William Van Geertruyden, who holds three degrees in materials science and engineering from Lehigh, has developed a new type of dialysis filter that, he says, represents the first major breakthrough in 30 years for dialysis patients.
Van Geertruyden, who earned a Ph.D. from Lehigh in 2004, has filed a patent application on a ceramic filter that he believes is dramatically superior to the traditional polymer, or rubber-like, filter used in dialysis.
Last September, his company, EMV Technologies, LLC, received a $195,000 Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to verify the feasibility of the new filter. EMV, which is located in Bethlehem, has received smaller grants from the Pennsylvania Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) program and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
The new ceramic filter has the potential to make kidney dialysis much more efficient, says Van Geertruyden, and to reduce by 30 minutes to one hour the time required for a dialysis treatment.