It is estimated by The National Kidney Foundation that over 100,000 patients are on the waiting list for kidney donors. A further 3,000 names are added to the list every year. An average patient has to wait for 3.6 years for a viable transplant. The patients are treated with dialysis while they are waiting for a transplant and only one in three patients survive for more than five years without a transplant. All that could change as scientists have developed the world’s first artificial kidney.
This bio-hybrid uses living kidney cells along with a series of specialized microchips powered by the human heart to filter waste from the blood-stream. The artificial kidney can bypass the complication of matching donors and tissue rejection. To address this unmet need, William Fissell from Vanderbilt and Shuvo Roy from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) launched The Kidney Project.
“We can leverage Mother Nature’s 60 million years of research and development and use kidney cells that fortunately for us grow well in the lab dish, and grow them into a bioreactor of living cells,” explained Fissell in a recent article published by Research News Vanderbilt. Fissel claims that it can reliably distinguish between waste chemicals and the nutrients that need to be reabsorbed by the body.
The artificial kidney can be inserted into the body by a common surgery and has been proved to work efficiently. This kidney has several microchips which are controlled by the heart and removes the toxins from the blood the same way a normal kidney does.
The artificial kidney has 15 microchips built one atop the other and they act as filters. They will hold living renal cells which will eventually grow around the microchips and mimic a real kidney. Engineers are currently working and testing every single detail of the device to make sure the device can safely let the blood run through without the formation of clots or damaging the kidney in any way.
This solution has been working so far and the rejection rate has been zero. The human trials are yet to commence but the research shows promising results and everybody is hoping it might eliminate the need for dialysis.