Implantable artificial kidney – a chance for a better life

Kidneys – the filter of our body which is constantly working to ensure the proper composition of the blood by purifying it and removing waste products. They keep their efficiency for a long time even if their cells are very damaged and for that reason in case of pathology it is often too late for the treatment due to the fact that the changes are already very advanced. In these cases, drug treatment often fails and the renal replacement therapy is now limited to dialysis or transplantation. But even these solutions have their disadvantages.

Deterioration of the renal function may be the consequence of the most of nephropathies. The accurate epidemiological data on the prevalence of the chronic kidney disease are gathered regularly for patients in the last stage treated by the renal replacement therapy. Among the causes of the declining stage the diabetic nephropathy is predominant and the chronic glomerulonephritis is on the second place. The incidence of hypertensive nephropathy increases definitely as well. What is more, the next are causes which are unknown or poorly defined. In other words, the number of people with the chronic kidney disease is increasing due to the higher prevalence of lifestyle diseases – diabetes and hypertension. Depending on the geographic region, the number of people with kidney ailments is ranging from 6 to 20%. Statisticians estimate that more than 4 million Poles (every tenth citizen of the Republic of Poland) and to 600 million people worldwide suffer from various stages of the disease. The highest incidence is in the age between 45 and 75 years. It confirms too late diagnosis when the range of tests and diagnostic procedures is largely limited.

It seems that there is a chance on the horizon for patients. This opportunity is an implantable artificial kidney which was designed in the beginning of September 2010 by a group of researchers from the University of California (under the guidance of Dr. Shuvo Roy). The prototype the American scientists are working on is to contain thousands of microscopic filters and bioreactor fulfilling the regulatory and metabolic physiology of real kidney. Currently they work on the miniaturization of the prototype. The final version is to have a size of a mug or of a coffee cup. The apparatus could be implanted in a patient without necessity of taking the immunosuppressive drugs. The team believes that clinical trials on humans could start in about 5 years. Scientists are using silicon semiconductor technology and modules with living renal cells. Implantable device removes toxins from the blood by hemofilter (HemoCartridge), and other tasks are performed by cultured renal tubule cells (BioCartridge). During the filtration neither the pumps nor the power supply are necessary because everything is done due to the natural blood pressure.

The implantable artificial kidney may be an instant hit for those undergoing burdensome and time consuming dialyses, and for those waiting for a transplant. It only remains to wait for this wonderful achievement of biomedical engineering.

Written by: Mateusz Grajek, Anna Rej, Sandra KryskaSource:
1. Pierwsza wszczepialna sztuczna nerka [na:]
2. Zalety i wady dializoterapii [na:]
3. Ogólnopolskie Stowarzyszenie Osób Dializowanych [na:]
4. Król E., Rutkowski B.: Przewlekła choroba nerek – klasyfikacja, epidemiologia, diagnostyka, Forum Nefrologiczne 2008, tom 1, nr 1, s. 1-6

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