Innovation

End Of Dialysis: Implantable Artificial Kidney Moves Closer To Production

Patients with damaged kidneys may soon stop their dialysis. Scientists have developed a bio-artificial kidney that could replace the organ and continue its natural functions with lower risk of side effects. 

The team from UC San Francisco worked under the Kidney Project. Developers said the implantable artificial kidney appeared safe and effective in initial tests with animals. 

Scientists implanted a prototype kidney bioreactor into pigs. It contains functional human kidney cells and is just the size of a deck of cards. 

The team said the pigs’ bodies accepted the transplant “without significant safety concerns.” The animals did not experience any immune reaction or blood clots after the procedure. 

"This is the first demonstration that kidney cells can be implanted successfully in a large animal without immunosuppression and remain healthy enough to perform their function," Shuvo Roy, co-head of Kidney Project and faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, said in a statement. "Based on these results, we can now focus on scaling up the bioreactor and combining it with the blood filtration component of the artificial kidney."

The artificial kidney was made with a blood filtration system that removes toxins from the blood through nanometer-scale pores. The device also has a bioreactor that contains cultured human kidney cells to support natural kidney functions, such as producing hormones and managing salt levels.

The cells are protected by silicon membranes, which prevent the host immune system from sending blood-borne immune cells and proteins to the device. The scientists said the membranes also helped them avoid blood clots after the transplant.

The material delivers friendly molecules to the blood to continue its proper flow. 

"We couldn't use the standard blood-friendly coatings that have been developed for heart valves, catheters and other devices because they are so thick that they would completely block the pores of our silicon membranes," Roy said. "One of our accomplishments has been to engineer a suitable surface chemistry on our silicon membranes that makes them look biologically friendly to blood."

The team plans to further improve the artificial kidney to add more human cells and eventually test the device in human trials. The Kidney Project is now waiting for approval from the Food and Drug Administration to begin initial clinical trials.

Surgery Doctors prepare a patient for an open surgery. Pixabay

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