State government of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern supports research into extracorporeal therapy systems

Press release /

In close cooperation with the Rostock University Medical Center and various academic and industrial partners, the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI is conducting intensive research on extracorporeal therapy systems.

A plasma filter is clamped into the designated holder in an apheresis device. This setup is used for so-called extracorporeal immune cell therapy, which can be used in the treatment of severe sepsis.
The Rostock branch of Fraunhofer IZI researches, tests and develops extracorporeal therapy systems

"Extracorporeal procedures" are medical technology approaches in which the treatment process takes place outside the patient's body. The best known of these is renal dialysis, or blood purification, in which a significant portion of kidney function is performed through filtration membranes in a machine-assisted circuit. The effectiveness of this procedure enables the survival of patients who would otherwise die after a short time due to the accumulation of toxins in the body. While the machines and filter products used have improved considerably since dialysis was first used clinically in the 1940s, the principle of dialysis itself has changed little: Blood is purified for only a few hours a week, whereas an intact kidney works constantly and continuously. Measured against the biological model, there is therefore still considerable potential for improvement.

Identifying and exploiting such potential in order to improve the care of seriously ill patients is the research focus of the Rostock branch of the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology. In this way, Fraunhofer is continuing the long-standing research tradition of the University Medical Center Rostock in the field of nephrology, which initiated nationwide dialysis care for the whole of Eastern Germany back in the 1970s.

In addition to novel approaches to the further development of dialysis for chronic organ failure in nephrology, the Fraunhofer research group is also developing new areas of application for extracorporeal therapy methods. While dialysis is already standard medical treatment in nephrology, blood purification is still in its infancy as a therapeutic approach for other diseases. These include neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, and hematological diseases such as leukemia.

In close cooperation with the Rostock University Medical Center and various academic and industrial partners, the Fraunhofer facility will conduct intensive research in the above-mentioned areas in the coming years. Support for this development work comes from the Ministry of Science, Culture, Federal and European Affairs of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The state will invest a total of 4.5 million euros in the expansion of research into extracorporeal therapy systems by 2027. The concept of a new type of mobile dialysis and an outlook on the planned development work will be presented by Institute Director Prof. Dr. Dr. Ulrike Köhl and Department Head Prof. Dr. Steffen Mitzner at the 18th National Conference on Health Economy 2023, in Rostock, Germany, on June 8, 2023.