End stage renal disease is a devastating condition in which dialysis may help prolong life, but the only real cure is a kidney transplant. The pioneering of the kidney transplant has saved countless numbers of lives, however end-stage renal disease continues to grow in prevalence and the supply of kidneys remains limited. Patients wait for years to obtain kidneys, and even once a kidney is finally transplanted patients face a lifetime of immunosuppressive drugs and fears about the donor kidney being rejected.
UCSF has been working on an ambitious project to create an artificial kidney using a combination of tissue engineering and MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) technology. The scientists hope that one day this device can actually be used in lieu of a kidney transplant and not just as a stop-gap measure. The device has been shown to be effective in a larger external version, and as an implantable animal model.
Here is more from the press release:
The device, which would include thousands of microscopic filters as well as a bioreactor to mimic the metabolic and water-balancing roles of a real kidney, is being developed in a collaborative effort by engineers, biologists and physicians nationwide, led by Shuvo Roy in the UCSF Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences.
The treatment has been proven to work for the sickest patients using a room-sized external model developed by a team member in Michigan. Roy’s goal is to apply silicon fabrication technology, along with specially engineered compartments for live kidney cells, to shrink that large-scale technology into a device the size of a coffee cup. The device would then be implanted in the body without the need for immune suppressant medications, allowing the patient to live a more normal life.
The team has established the feasibility of an implantable model in animal models and plans to be ready for clinical trials in five to seven years.
The two-stage system uses a hemofilter to remove toxins from the blood, while applying recent advances in tissue engineering to grow renal tubule cells to provide other biological functions of a healthy kidney. The process relies on the body’s blood pressure to perform filtration without needing pumps or an electrical power supply.
Press release: UCSF unveils model for implantable artificial kidney to replace dialysis
Flashbacks: Wearable Artificial Kidney (WAK); New Device Points Way to Artificial Kidney Implants; An Update On The Progress of Wearable Artificial Kidney; Kidney Cell Engineering Hits Bottleneck;