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Implantable artificial kidney offers hope and relief to dialysis patients following promising trial

A game-changing implantable artificial kidney moves closer to reality after a successful trial, offering hope to dialysis patients.

Implantable artificial kidney offers hope and relief to dialysis patients following promising trial
Cover Image Source: YouTube | ucsfpharmacy Screenshot

People who have kidney failure have to undergo dialysis frequently. The process is a life-saving medical procedure that helps individuals but can be physically and emotionally draining. According to the Cleveland Clinic, individuals whose kidney has failed don't filter blood the way they should. The lack of filtration allows toxins to build up in the blood. The process of dialysis involves circulating blood through a dialyzer filter and returning the clean blood to the individual's body and usually takes up to three to five hours to complete.



 

Thanks to the University of California in San Francisco, individuals suffering from kidney failure can hope for a future without the need for dialysis or an organ transplant. The university's research has allowed them to come up with an implantable device that acts as a kidney. Initial trials with the device containing kidney cells did not incite a reaction from the subject's immune system. The working of the device was similar to that of a pacemaker in the heart.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | RF._.studio
Representative Image Source: Pexels | RF._.studio

The device's biggest victory was the lack of an immune system response, as most patients had to take immunity-suppressing drugs after they underwent organ transplantation. The project is aptly named "The Kidney Project" and has yielded promising results in pigs after seven days of tests. They will now focus on trials that extend up to a month in both animals and humans. Dr. Shuvo Roy, who is a bioengineering professor at the university, spoke about the achievement, saying, "The bioartificial kidney will make treatment for kidney disease more effective and also much more tolerable and comfortable."

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

He further added that they needed to prove firmly that a functional bioreactor could function without the host taking immunosuppressant drugs. There were no complications and the team is now looking to scale up their efforts to make the device more efficient for humans. According to a study published in the Nature Communications journal, the team revealed how the device utilized the proximal tubule cell, which is a type of kidney cell, to regulate water and salt. They were also used by doctors to help dialysis patients in the intensive care unit.

A patient at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is treated on a dialysis machine at Birmingham. Image Source; Getty Images | Christopher Furlong
A patient at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is treated on a dialysis machine at Birmingham. Image Source; Getty Images | Christopher Furlong

Many people in the United States suffer from Kidney disease. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, nearly 808,000 people in the country have been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Out of this massive number, 69% survived with the help of dialysis, while 31% underwent a kidney transplant. The report also revealed that men were 1.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with ESKD than women.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Павел Сорокин
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Павел Сорокин

By 2020, only 13.7% of people suffering from ESKD did their dialysis at home. But, there has been a drastic increase of 50% in individuals performing home dialysis from 2010 to 2020. The country witnessed a massive 25,499 kidney transplants in 2022. With so many individuals suffering from the disease, the waiting list for kidney transplants has grown. In February 2023, there were approximately 88,658 people in line for a kidney transplant.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Antoni Shkraba
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Antoni Shkraba

The team's findings will certainly help the dire situation that many individuals face. It also allows for a more long-term solution in contrast to short-term solutions like dialysis. The project will also help the government reduce their expenditure on health care. The government spent approximately $75 billion in 2020 on kidney-related diseases as part of the Medicare program.

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