What does the federal government spend more money on than NASA, the Department of Energy or the National Institutes of Health?
The answer: kidney dialysis. According to an official from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS), Medicare spent $34 billion in 2015 on the procedure to mechanically cleanse the blood of patients whose kidneys have failed — more than the budgets of any of these federal agencies.
This enormous healthcare burden — in terms of both cost and quality of life — is driving new initiatives to accelerate the development of therapies for chronic kidney disease (CDK), a health problem that has achieved epidemic proportions with the increased prevalence of diabetes, which is a leading risk factor.
The epidemic of CDK in those with diabetes and its implications for public health will be the subject of a talk by Hermann Haller, M.D., the president of the MDI Biological Laboratory. Haller is an internationally renowned physician-scientist and a specialist in nephrology, the branch of medicine that deals with kidney disease.
Haller will discuss diabetes as a risk factor for CKD and end-stage renal disease (ESRD); current treatments options; recent advances, including the contributions of the MDI Biological Laboratory; and efforts to address the limitations of current therapies — dialysis and kidney transplant — through the development of artificial organs.
About 30 percent of patients with Type 1 (juvenile onset) diabetes and 10 to 40 percent of those with Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes eventually will suffer from kidney failure, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
“The lack of treatment options for chronic kidney disease takes a huge toll on patients and their families,” Haller said. “Dialysis is expensive and time-consuming, and transplants are only available to those fortunate enough to receive donor organs. Thankfully, science is making genuine progress in developing new options.”
Thirty million adult Americans (15 percent of the adult population) have CDK, according to the DHS. Of these, 680,000 are on dialysis, and tens of thousands are on the waiting list to receive a transplant. The growth in the incidence of CKD is being driven by the prevalence of diabetes, which is at an all-time high in the United States.
While Maine has a lower-than-average incidence of diabetes, ranking 31st among the 50 states, the disease still exacts an enormous toll. The cost of diabetes in Maine is estimated at $1.6 billion annually, and it accounted for about 43 percent of new cases of ESRD in 2008, according to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
MDI Science Cafés are offered in fulfillment of the institution’s mission to promote scientific literacy and increase public engagement with science. The popular events offer a chance to hear directly from speakers about trends in science. Short presentations delivered in everyday language are followed by lively, informal discussion.
The café series will be held Mondays at 5:00 p.m. on January 14, February 11, March 11, April 8, May 13, June 10 and 24, July 8 and 22, and August 5 and 19.
The location of the cafés will be at Jack Russell’s Steakhouse and Brewery in March through May and at the MDI Biological Laboratory June through August.
We are currently confirming speakers and topics for 2019. Please check back for more information.