Scientists examine hydration through computer kidneys

Breakthrough research at the University of Waterloo could now help researchers to study the functions of kidneys more closely with the help of a computer kidney. The latest invention will examine the impacts of medicines on people who do not drink enough water.

Researchers found elderly people suffering from an impaired kidney function and who are also using a combination of certain drugs have to be especially careful about their water intake, since the older people find it more difficult to maintain a healthy water balance.

Kidneys play a vital function in maintain water balance, especially when our body is dehydrated, kidneys help in producing a concentrated form of urine. This further helps to get rid of waste by using as little water as possible.

“People who have high blood pressure are typically given a water pill, so they pee a lot to lower their blood volume and in so doing lower their blood pressure,” explained Anita Layton, professor of Applied Mathematics, Pharmacy and Biology at Waterloo. “These patients are frequently also given another drug that targets a hormonal system which will affect the kidney as well.

“A lot of people are on these two drugs, and they will be fine. But one day they might have a headache and take an aspirin, and the three of these drugs together can hurt your kidneys.”

Layton, the Canada 150 Research Chair in Mathematical Biology and Medicine has created the first computer model which activates muscle contractions when urine moves from the kidney to the bladder.

Known as the Layton’s model, it helped in identifying that the two blood pressure drugs can cause serious injuries if the body is not properly hydrated. Insufficient water balance becomes the main source of concentrated urine formed from built-up waste in the body.

The current study used mathematics as a microscope to understand medicine and biology. Furthermore, the built-in computer helped in analyzing the effects of several drugs and mathematical techniques were further applied to examine the clinical data.