If you or a loved one has ever experienced kidney disease, you probably know that securing a donor for a kidney transplant is a long and difficult wait. The demand for kidney transplants is so high that the National Institute of Health granted 6 million dollars to pioneering researchers on the mission to build an artificial kidney. This groundbreaking technology would address the chronic shortage of donor kidneys by creating safe, reliable artificial units instead. The nephrologist William H. Fissel IV, MD and Professor Shuvo Roy co-developed this new nanotechnology that is on course to change the lives of dialysis patients forever. Research is ongoing at multiple universities including UCSF and Vanderbilt. So how does the artificial kidney work?
How the Artificial Kidney Works
Researchers engineered this biotechnology by creating a high-efficiency silicon membrane run by several microchips. This unit effectively filters toxins out of blood as effectively as a normal healthy kidney. It accommodates up to a liter of blood per minute.
Informational Video Provided by Vanderbilt University
This implantable artificial kidney also has a major benefit over donor kidneys: zero rejection chance. One of the major complications for current transplants is the possibility that your body will reject the donor as a foreign object. But with the new bionic kidney, there is zero chance that this will happen.
What’s the hold up?
Unfortunately, one major issue challenges the viability of the bionic kidney. So what’s the problem? Clotting. As with any filter, the bionic kidney faces the issue of becoming overloaded with blockage. This creates blood clots that prevent the unit from operating properly.
Researchers are trying to get around this problem through computer simulations. Eventually, blood platelets will be able to respond to mechanical forces without clotting.
Human Trials on Track to Start in 2018
But there’s good news! Researchers are on track to start human trials this year. This is a huge step forward and bodes very well for the future viability of the bionic kidney.
Interested in keeping up with the technology’s progress? Follow UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine dedicated Kidney Project page.