Low-cost dialysis and patient autonomy with DIALTIC

This procedure would be carried out using the DIALTIC invention while the person sleeping. About 120.000 people in Mexico need their kidneys replaced.

Low-cost dialysis and patient autonomy with DIALTIC
DIALTIC allows for cheap dialysis and greater patient independence. Credit: UNAM

Developed at the UNAM, OXKALI (derived from the Nahuatl word Kokoxkali, which means house of health), is a venture that created a semi-automated machine for peritoneal dialysis, called DIALTIC, which reduces the cost of the medical procedure by up to 70 percent compared to automated methods, and restores autonomy to the patient with chronic kidney disease.

Due to its relevance, the device (in the prototype phase) won first place in the Santander X Mexico 2022 Award, in the Lanza Category, which is why the team of now graduates of the Faculty of Chemistry (FQ) of the UNAM and the University of Guadalajara will represent Mexico in the world competition to be held in Spain next year.

Rogerio Julio Canales Pérez, a member of the group, explained that the idea for the project began in an innovation boot camp organized at the CF in 2020, based on the need to attend those who have chronic kidney disease and cannot access commercial treatments.

For their care, there is manual peritoneal dialysis, automated peritoneal dialysis, and hemodialysis. The first prevents the patient from leaving home because it must be performed several times a day and in a place with strict cleanliness; the second is difficult to access since there are few machines available in hospitals (only 20 percent of patients can have this procedure), and the third is expensive and drains the patient's energy.

In Mexico, the number of people in need of renal replacement is approximately 120,000, with an annual growth rate of about seven percent. In the world, 800 million people are in previous stages or require this type of therapy.

There are different causes for chronic renal failure, they can be congenital: when the kidneys do not develop properly, the person is born with only one organ, or when they stop working; as a result of bad eating habits, including drinking little water; or due to diseases such as obesity, diabetes or hypertension, among others.

When the kidneys stop working, one of the common therapies is peritoneal dialysis, which consists of placing a catheter through an orifice in the abdomen to fill the peritoneal cavity (the space between the two layers of the peritoneum that contains liquid whose function is to lubricate and allow the abdominal viscera to slide without friction) with a solution containing salts, glucose, and some other components, to exchange ionic material with the blood. It is left for a while and then the peritoneum is emptied to start the cycle again. This is done manually three or four times a day.


With DIALTIC, this procedure would be performed automatically, during the night, while the patient sleeps, without changing the supplies or the catheter, thus giving him greater autonomy to carry out other activities while awake.

The machine - created by a chemist, two chemical engineers, a pharmaco-biologist, a food chemist, and a mechatronics engineer - has controllers that tell it when to open and close the flows of the different bags (those containing the solution and those used to empty the cavity).

"The programming helps us to generate different cycles, according to the doctor's indications: how much liquid enters, how long it remains in the cavity and when it comes out," explained Canales Perez.

All the patient has to do is connect the bags to his catheter and turn on the machine; he can then lie down and sleep. The device ensures that the liquid is loaded and unloaded, and at the end of the process the patient will be free of toxins in the blood, explained the young chemist.

The prototype tests, which consisted of controlling the flow of the dialysis bags, were carried out in the laboratory with favorable results. Now the verification of the medical equivalence with other commercial machines will begin; once it is concluded, the first stage of tests on animals will follow. And, subsequently, on patients.

The young people created an investment promotion corporation to support the project. "The technological part is being developed, and in parallel, the commercial part. We are taking steps in both aspects and we are moving forward to have a product that reaches the market," he said.

The cost of the device would be considerably cheaper than those available on the market; "we use a technique called frugal innovation, trying to find the most accessible elements to achieve the functions. In the business model, we have considered offering the equipment for rent: hemodialysis costs up to 30,000 pesos per month; in this case, it would be five or six times cheaper, around five thousand pesos per month," Canales Perez pointed out.