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Through a partnership with Johns Hopkins Hospital, Fresenius Kidney Care, one of the nation's largest dialysis treatment providers, will expand its network of dialysis centers with eight new locations in the Baltimore area.

Under the agreement a new dialysis center designed specially to treat children with chronic kidney disease will be based at Hopkins' flagship hospital. Other dialysis centers, all to be overseen by Hopkins doctors, will be located in Baltimore, Dundalk and Lutherville-Timonium.

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"Chronic kidney disease is a considerable, but unrecognized health issue in this country," said Dr. Paul Scheel, division chief of the nephrology department at Johns Hopkins Hospital, in a statement. "We are pleased to be a part of this initiative, dedicated to providing optimal dialysis services to our patients."

When kidneys are no longer performing their function of removing waste and toxins from the blood, dialysis can be used to artificially remove waste. The process, which entails being hooked up to a dialysis machine, takes about four hours and typically must be repeated three times a week.

About 468,000 Americans use dialysis, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The new centers add to Fresenius' nation-wide network of 2,200 dialysis facilities, including more than 20 already in the Baltimore area, according to the company's website.

Fresenius Kidney Care, a division of the Massachusetts-based renal care company Fresenius Medical Care North America, treats about 200,000 people annually.

Terms of the partnership with Hopkins were not disclosed.

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