The increasing use of high-flux membranes for hemodialysis (HD) has raised concerns that these membranes may confer a higher risk of exposure to cytokine-inducing, bacterial substances (CIS) in the dialysate. Several studies, however, reported higher transfer of CIS through low-flux cellulosic than high-flux synthetic membranes. This surprising paradox was explained by adsorption of CIS to certain high-flux membranes. In order to investigate flux and membrane type independently, we studied two synthetic Polyflux (PF) membranes of the same type but with different flux properties and compared them to a cellulosic membrane (Cuprophan). Three different approaches were employed: (1) cytokine induction in whole blood during in vitro HD contaminated with bacterial filtrates, (2) removal of recombinant C5a, and (3) transfer of purified lipopolysaccharide (LPS). After 90 min recirculation of whole blood, the appearance of IL-6-inducing substances on the blood side was lowest with high-flux PF (1.1 ± 0.2 ng/ml), slightly higher with low-flux PF (1.9 ± 0.7 ng/ml) and highest with Cuprophan (4.1 ± 1 ng/ml). Recombinant C5a added to plasma on the blood side was markedly removed by high-flux PF (by 83%), to a lesser degree and only in the presence of ultrafiltration with low-flux PF (by 54%) and not significantly with Cuprophan (by 11%). Significant transfer of purified LPS from the dialysate onto the blood side was only observed with the cellulosic membrane. We conclude that in contrast to cellulosic membranes, certain synthetic membranes do not permit transfer of LPS. Cytokine induction on the blood side is further reduced by the use of high-flux membranes due to removal of activated complement factors.
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