Researchers Develop Surgically-Implantable Artificial Kidney

The next time you have a cup of coffee, take a closer look at the mug you’re drinking from. A typical coffee mug is about the size of your fist and might hold 8 to 16 ounces of your favorite coffee drink. What’s so special about a coffee mug? It’s almost identical to the size of a surgically-implantable artificial kidney currently being developed by a team of researchers at the University of California.

“Currently the two treatments available for end-stage renal disease today are insufficient,” says lead researcher Dr. Shovo Roy. “Dialysis is associated with poor outcomes and very poor quality of life. With kidney transplant, they’re just aren’t enough organs available. The alternative we are working on is an implantable bio-artificial kidney.”

Here’s how it’s designed to work: The artificial kidney is implanted in the abdomen of a patient, without removing the damaged kidneys. And it’s designed to function without a pump or battery, instead relying on blood pressure.

When blood enters the artificial kidney, it’s cleaned using silicone filters that remove water, salt, and toxins from the blood similar to the role of healthy kidneys. The blood returns to the body, and the waste is removed via urination.

This artificial kidney is currently being tested in a laboratory environment. But Roy says key partners including the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and other research universities are supportive of a plan to conduct clinical trials in the near future.

It’s a promising development for people who are currently on dialysis. The artificial kidney isn’t currently available, so that means your best course of treatment includes following your doctor’s recommendations, dialysis treatments, and a healthy diet.

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