Kidneys are the most powerful chemical factories in our bodies. Therefore, we must keep them healthy and safe.
Their job is vital, as they filter and regulate minerals from the blood, filter waste materials, maintain overall fluid balance, and the adrenal glands above the kidneys produce hormones that are a key for producing red blood cells, provide stable blood pressure, and keep the bones healthy.
If they stop working properly, the whole body will be affected. For instance, they won’t be able to filter waste materials from the blood and they will start to accumulate in the blood. Therefore, the body will suffer from a chemical imbalance.
In an urgent case of kidney failure, a transplant is the only solution.
More than 100,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant in the United States. The average wait-time for surgery is between three to five years.
In the meantime, while the patient is waiting for a kidney transplant, they are put on dialysis, as some of the actions of a normal kidney can be performed by this procedure. In some cases, matching donor cannot be found for patients who are a specific blood type or refuse the organ. So, they have put on life-time dialysis and have an average life expectancy of five to ten years.
Unfortunately, thirteen people die waiting for a kidney transplant every day on an average.
Scientists are concerned about these results and are working hard to find a solution. Therefore, The Kidney Project might solve this problem with a new project they are working on.
William Fissel from Vanderbilt University and Shuvo Roy from the University of California, San Francisco initiated this project.
Their project consists of creating an artificial kidney. It is constructed of two components- the hemofilter, which is a blood filtration system, and a bioreactor, composed of cultured human kidney cells that are meant for other kidney functions.
The heart controls the living kidney cells along with 15 specialized microchips. The artificial kidney acts as a filter and performs all the actions of a healthy one.
They implemented living kidney cells which they hope will grow around the chip and take place of a real kidney.
Roy from The Kidney Project explained:
“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.”
They insert the artificial kidney into the body with a common surgery. What is most important it can determine between needed nutrients for the body and waste chemicals that need to be released.
Scientists believe that the artificial kidney works better than dialysis and it can be more permanent. Furthermore, it can be a more effective solution than a real kidney transplant.
Roy described the challenges of their project “center around keeping the device operating trouble-free after implantation beyond a few months.”
Surprisingly, the project received substantial donations from individuals, despite the $6 million in government grants. He said:
“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.”
Let’s all hope this project will solve three major problems: the national health care expenses, the need for dialysis, and the organ shortage crisis.