When 17-year-old Anya Pogharian volunteered at her local hospital, she realized just how difficult it was for many patients to get there when they needed help. She was particularly concerned about the kidney dialysis patients who had to get to the hospital as many as three times each week for treatment. So she did some research on the Internet and invented a better way to help these patients.
Pogharian created a kidney dialysis machine that uses simple technology and can be built for around $500 — that's much less expensive than the hospital machines that cost $30,000 and up. The teen came up with her machine as part of her high school science project, spending 300 hours on research and design instead of the 10 hours required.
Kidney dialysis cleans toxins from the blood and helps the body maintain a healthy balance of nutrients, a job that would normally be accomplished by healthy kidneys. The procedure is used primarily to treat patients with some form of kidney failure that prevents the organs from working successfully. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 10 Americans has some form of chronic kidney disease.
To develop her idea, Pogharian says she started by hitting the Internet and reading over the online manuals of kidney dialysis machines currently used by hospitals. She wanted to find a way to make the treatment — which takes about four hours and must be repeated several times a week — easier on the patients who need it. The student realized that many of the patients with kidney disease have mobility issues that make it difficult to get to the hospital that often. She also sees a use for her design in developing countries where travel to and from the hospital for dialysis may not be a viable option.
"Ten per cent of patients living in India and Pakistan who need the treatment can't afford it or can't have it in any way," the teen told Canada's CBC News. "It's not accessible. So that motivated me."
Pogharian has received a number of awards and scholarships so far for her invention. And her local hospital, Canada's Héma-Québec, offered her a summer internship during which she can test out her machine in the lab. She is now studying science at Marianopolis College in her hometown of Montreal.
You can check out Pogharian explaining her kidney dialysis design here: