Nova Scotia Health researcher and urologist develops novel kidney invention

Dr. Thomas Skinner, researcher and urologist at Nova Scotia Health. (contributed)

Dr. Thomas Skinner, a Nova Scotia Health researcher and urologist, is developing an invention that has the potential to dramatically change one of the key components of a kidney transplant.  

The device (patent pending) is the first of its kind proven to maintain the temperature of a kidney during transplantation. 

The initial prototype was made of malleable, hollow aluminum tubing and curved to fit around a 3-D printed human kidney. The device provides support for the kidney and retraction of surrounding tissues. 

The hollow centre of the tubing allows cold fluid to be continuously fed through without leaving any residue behind. 

“An organ that doesn’t have blood supply will suffer damage when it’s at body temperature, so the cooling process is crucial,” said Dr. Skinner. “Once we remove and flush the kidney, we put the organ on ice to cool it down as quickly as possible.”

During a kidney transplant, maintaining the organ temperature at or below five degrees Celsius will allow the organ to have optimal function once blood supply is re-established. 

However, organs continuously re-warm throughout the transplant surgery, with the average temperature typically being much higher than 5 degrees. 

Dr. Skinner and his team have completed several experiments using a prototype that demonstrates that the device can help the organ maintain a surface and core temperature of five degrees Celsius for at least 60 minutes, compared to 17 degrees Celsius or more using traditional methods. 

“We tested the prototype in a non-surgical environment to see if we could keep the kidney cold, and then we used a simulated operative field to confirm that the device would not impair our ability to reconnect the vessels or lead to longer surgical times.”

The team behind the invention has recently received funding from the Nova Scotia Health Research Fund and the Innovacorp Early-Stage Commercialization Fund, as well as support from the Department of Medicine, to help accelerate the development of the novel invention.

“We are so grateful to these organizations for these funding opportunities. This additional funding will allow us to really scale up and explore the impact we can make on patient care.”

They have met the criteria for Health Canada Medical Device Investigational Testing and will begin live testing in the coming months. 

If proven effective, Dr. Skinner anticipates that the device will help decrease complication rates and improve the long-term health of both the transplanted organ and the recipient.  

The urologist notes that the success of this project can be attributed to the innovative and collaborative environment at Nova Scotia Health. 

“Our team is a very supportive and interdisciplinary team – between nephrology, general surgery, and urology. We have a really unique atmosphere here where we have people collaborating and contributing from very different backgrounds and training. It gives us a unique opportunity to innovate and improve care in our province.”

To learn more, visit Dr. Skinner’s website at http://www.kidneyskinn.com