The kidneys are the main blood filters in the body and because of that we need to properly take care of them. They are multi-tasking organs in charge of the vital functions in the body like filtering waste materials and minerals from the blood, meanwhile producing hormones required for the production of the red blood cells, regulating blood pressure, maintaining bone health, basically maintaining overall fluid balance.
In case of kidney failure the blood cannot get cleansed from all the waste that will start to build up in the blood thereby leading to a chemical imbalance in the body. When all the applied treatments are not becoming efficient the body needs to receive a new kidney so that it survives. So, the transplant is the only option, but there are not so many kidneys available from donors and in order for that patient to receive one it needs to be on the waiting list from 3 to 5 years. In USA on the waiting list for a kidney transplant there are over 100 thousand people hoping to get one and thus have a quality life.
When there is a kidney failure the commonly applied treatment is dialysis that does some of the actions of a healthy kidney. However, this treatment cannot last forever, if the patient does not receive a new kidney it can live from 5 to 10 years. Not everyone can live to have a new kidney and in average thirteen people die each day while waiting for a kidney transplant.
A New Approach of ESRD Treatment
The organ shortage is a huge problem and because of that scientists are working hard to find a solution to this problem. The Kidney Project has been launched by William Fissel from Vanderbilt University and Shuvo Roy from the University of California, San Francisco that may solve this issue.
The scientists in this project have succeeded in creating an artificial kidney consisted of two components: the hemofilter – a blood filtration system called, and a bioreactor – a cultured human kidney cells that should perform the other kidney functions.
It is based on living kidney cells along with 15 specialized microchips that are being controlled by the heart acting as filters thus doing the job of a healthy kidney.
Shuvo Roy explained it like this:
“The implantable bioartificial kidney is an alternative to dialysis and other externally wearable devices that would tether patients or limit their mobility.
A live kidney transplant from a matching donor is still considered one of the best treatment options for ESRD, but unfortunately, there is a shortage of organ donors that prevents transplants from being available to the vast majority of ESRD patients. Unlike transplants, our device will not require that patients be on immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection.”
The artificial kidney can distinguish between waste chemicals and needed nutrients when it is implanted in the body by a common surgery. It works better than dialysis and even outdoes the work of a real kidney transplant that is at a persistent threat that the body will reject it.
This is a breaking through innovation and the long-term challenges of this device according to Roy “center around keeping the device operating trouble-free after implantation beyond a few months.”
This project is being funded by the government with $6 million grants, but also it is funded by substantial donations from individuals. Roy added:
“Their support is a testament to the acute need for a revolution in ESRD treatment, and the donations we have received are invaluable in allowing our research to progress.”
The innovation in progress will be a great solution for the organ shortage crisis, the dialysis, and the national health care expenses.