Dr. Amira Abdelrasoul, University of Saskatchewan
Can you describe your area of research and how it is helping address a health-related issue in Saskatchewan?
My research program focuses on solving the existing problems of hemodialysis systems needed for kidney failure patients. I aim to create hemodialysis membranes that are more compatible with the human body than current membranes, and therefore reduce patient suffering and increase life expectancy. Around 1 in 10 Canadians (~4 million) have chronic kidney disease, and many more are at risk as the number of patients with kidney failure and on hemodialysis has increased by 31% over the last decade alone. Saskatchewan currently has also around 10% of Canada’s population of active chronic kidney disease patients as well as a higher-than-the-national-average number of seniors in its population, who are at high risk for kidney failure. My interdisciplinary research program will solve existing hemodialysis problems and aims to decrease the unacceptably high morbidity and mortality rates, increase the quality of life of kidney failure patients, and decrease the extremely high costs to the healthcare system in Canada and beyond.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?
The most rewarding aspect of my research is being able to help hemodialysis patients and potentially save their lives. It is an honour to be able to contribute to solutions to a critical health problem! I strive to find new ways to answer questions related to hemodialysis membranes by working hard and dedication to explore reasons behind blood activation, unstable cytokine levels, and why patients suffer and experience complications. It is a remarkable feeling to move step by step at a good pace towards solving current hemodialysis problems and helping kidney failure patients.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
The most challenging aspect is applying my chemical engineering knowledge, skills, and expertise to solve issues in medicine, specifically in the field of nephrology. I had considerable learning to do at the beginning to gain an in-depth understanding of the shortcomings of current hemodialysis materials and designs. An additional challenge is that my research program pioneers a new integrated approach building on the latest methods and techniques. This requires collaborations with the Canadian Light Source to employ synchrotron imaging and with Dr. Ahmed Shoker, Director of the Saskatchewan Transplant Program at St. Paul’s Hospital, Saskatoon, to access patient populations.
How did you first become interested in this area of research? What inspires you to do the work that you do?
The reason I became interested in hemodialysis membrane research is because I lost a close family member to kidney disease. I closely observed his hemodialysis sessions and how he suffered and saw all of the complications he experienced. This experience stimulated my passion and interest to solve hemodialysis problems and improve patient quality of life. My doctoral and postdoctoral research in membrane science and technology was also related to human health, and was motivated by the need for clean drinking water to prevent numerous diseases. I took my more than ten years of experience in membrane research and applied my knowledge, skills, and momentum to the area of hemodialysis membranes. This not only gave me the opportunity to continue membrane research and initiate a critical area, but also to be a leader in hemodialysis membrane science in Canada, while achieving my meaningful goal of helping patients.
Where is your research headed in the next five years?
My ultimate goal is to develop an artificial wearable kidney that is compatible with the human body and will increase life expectancy. My research group is currently answering several research questions and taking steps towards new designs and new membrane materials. This research program will solidify Canada’s position as a world leader in membrane science, hemodialysis technology, and nephrology, and also strengthen Canada’s economic competitiveness in the healthcare sector by increasing its health portfolio. And, critically, project results have the potential to increase the quality of life and survival of the millions of people who suffer from kidney failure.
Current projects are funded by NSERC, SSHRC-NFRF, and SHRF. For more details please visit:
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