Shuvo Roy, an associate professor in the UCSF School of Pharmacy who specializes in developing micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technology for biomedical applications, and his colleagues have developed the artificial kidney.
The implantable device is being built in close collaboration of 10 other teams of researches, including the Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, and Penn State University.
The new kidney device prototype is made up of two parts. First part is made of silicon chips and the second one is also made up of silicon chips but coated with human kidney cells.
Artificial kidney will filter toxins and help to reabsorb some of the sugars, water, and salts back into the body. The waste products will be directed through a tube that is attached to the urinary bladder and then excreted as urine. The device will have both metabolic and hormonal functions. It will not need pumps or an electrical power supply. It will only use the force of the body’s own blood pressure. It will use human kidney cells to regulate blood pressure and to produce vitamin D. Because it is built from thousands of silicon membranes that are stacked together, patients will not need any immune suppressant medications. According to Roy, the artificial kidney could last for decades.
The individual components were tested in animal models like pigs and rats. Those trials have shown good results. The team now scales up the device for humans. Probably the artificial kidney will be ready for clinical trials in five to seven years.
Professor Roy says: ‘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’.
‘This could dramatically reduce the burden of renal failure for millions of people worldwide.’
The number of kidney donors is limited. According to the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network, the number of patients on the transplant waiting list currently exceeds 85,000. End-stage renal disease, or chronic kidney failure, affects more than 500,000 people per year in the United States alone. Nearly 400,000 people in the United States and more then two million worldwide rely on dialysis machines. It is a great chance to save lives of thousands of patients who wait for transplantations. Maybe one day it could entirely eliminate the need for dialysis.