Researchers create an artificial kidney, may cure chronic kidney disease

Researchers have created an artificial kidney that can filter toxins from the blood, regulate blood pressure and produce vitamin D. Here's a look.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

University of California, San Francisco researchers have developed a model of an implantable artificial kidney that could potentially wipe away the need for dialysis.

The prototype of the implantable artificial kidney has two parts to it. First, thousands of nanoscale filters take out toxins from the blood. Then, a BioCartridge of kidney cells act like a real human kidney.

The system runs on the body’s blood pressure — eliminating the need for pumps or an electrical power supply to filter the blood.

Shuvo Roy, a professor of the UCSF School of Pharmacy, showed off the artificial kidney to SmartPlanet:

“This device is designed to deliver most of the health benefits of a kidney transplant, while addressing the limited number of kidney donors each year,” Roy said.

19.2 million U.S. adults have chronic kidney disease, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath. And eight million of them have less than half of the normal kidney function of a young person.

People who have chronic kidney failure need dialysis to survive.

In the video, Roy describes how the artificial kidney will be implanted in body. The size of the small coffee cup, it would give the person the freedom to move and also avoids the challenges associated with a transplant.

The device is made with silicon fabrication technology and fitted with kidney cells. When it's ready to be implanted into patients, the usual array of immune suppressant medications won't be necessary, Roy says.

“This could dramatically reduce the burden of renal failure for millions of people worldwide, while also reducing one of the largest costs in U.S. healthcare,” he said.

Currently, half a million people suffer from end-stage renal disease. The rising cases of diabetes and hypertension will make that number worse. The only treatment is a kidney transplant.

But just 17,000 kidneys were donated last year. This shortage of organ donations makes a majority of people resort to kidney dialysis.

When dependent on kidney dialysis, patients must spend up to five hours, three times a week, hooked to a machine to filter their blood. It's not only a personal burden, but a financial one, too.

According to the U.S. Renal Data System, it costs $75,000 per patient each year for dialysis. Even then, only 35 percent of those patients survive after five years.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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