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September 07, 2010

Implantable Artificial Kidney Research Aims to Replace Dialysis


Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, in collaboration with a nationwide research team, have developed a prototype for a bioartificial kidney that is designed to eliminate the need for dialysis treatments within the decade. This breakthrough medical device creates a two-stage process to replicate normal kidney functioning. Thousands of nanoscale filters will remove toxins from the blood, while a BioCartridge of renal tubule cells acts to replicate the metabolic and water-balance roles of the human kidney.

The two-stage treatment design embedded in the artificial kidney model has already been validated in the treatment of kidney failure patients –but the current application of this technique is only available from a room-sized external model developed by a team member in Michigan. To make the artificial kidney implantable, the researchers will use specialized nanotechnology and materials to reduce its size dramatically, to about the size of a coffee cup.

Though much work remains, the research team hopes to have an implantable size device ready for clinical trials in 5-7 years. This kidney treatment breakthrough promises to have an enormous impact on patient lives as well as medical costs. There are over half a million people in the U.S. suffering from end-stage renal disease, or chronic kidney failure. These patients require regular dialysis treatments and can only be fully treated with a kidney transplant. Medicare system alone spends $25 billion on treatments for kidney failure  every year– more than 6 percent of the total Medicare budget

“This device is designed to deliver most of the health benefits of a kidney transplant, while addressing the limited number of kidney donors each year,” said Shuvo Roy, an associate professor in the UCSF School of Pharmacy who specializes in developing micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technology for biomedical applications. “This could dramatically reduce the burden of renal failure for millions of people worldwide, while also reducing one of the largest costs in U.S. healthcare.”

Roy’s UCSF team is collaborating with 10 other teams of researchers on the project, including the Cleveland Clinic where Roy initially developed the idea, Case Western Reserve University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, and Penn State University.

For more information, visit the USCF news site.


Scott Guthery is co-author of 2 books on smart card development, 2 books on SIM and mobile application development and an inventor on 34 issued patents including the original Java Card´┐Ż patent. To read more of Scott's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Erin Monda

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