Developments in most fields, such as technology and medicine (which often go hand in hand,) do not happen overnight. In the case of medicine it often took hundreds, if not thousands of years to get where we are today. Kidney disease is one that goes back thousands of years. The ancient Romans were vaguely aware of kidney failure. Although, judging by their way of remedying it, they didn’t realize the seriousness of it. Their treatment? Taking a bath. They believed that soaking would make them sweat out the toxins.
From there it took a few hundred years to see awareness of kidney failure resurface. In the early 1500’s the autopsy of King Stefan Bathory of Poland stated that the cause of death was kidney failure. However it took 100 years before a major discovery leading to future treatment options was recorded when in 1668 Job Van Meeneran of Russia opened the door for tissue transplant with his ideas of bone grafting. He showed that it could be done when he successfully mended the skull of a Russian Soldier with that of a dog. The Russian church condemned the procedure as unnatural. On the bright side, that is the sole reason why there’s a record of the medical discovery.
Another “bright side” brings us to major progress on the road to treatment of kidney disease. In the first half of the 1800s Dr. Richard Bright became known as the “Father of Nephrology” because of his extensive research. “Bright’s disease” describes a number of disorders pertaining to the kidney. In 1861, Thomas Graham, a writer and a teacher (though he really wanted to be a chemist) while studying liquids, was able to divide particles into two classes: Crystalloids, which are highly diffusible, and Colloids, which are not. Dialysis was born when Graham developed a method of separating the two and proving that the liquid diffusion caused certain chemical compounds to decompose. In the beginning of the next century discoveries pertaining to organ transplant were made. In 1912, Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon, developed crucial steps enabling the transplant of organs and tissues.
Getting started seemed to be the hardest part of treating kidney disease. From 1912 on there was a flurry of events that led to the methods we have today, dialysis, improved the methods for transplanting organs, and The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, which made organ donations legal. Modern medicine is a beautiful thing, but we would not be where we are today without the work of people throughout the ages.