Scientists at the University of California San Francisco have made a significant breakthrough by creating a bioreactor device that replicates essential kidney functions using laboratory-cultured human kidney cells.
This groundbreaking device, as explained by the researchers, holds the potential to liberate individuals from the burdens of dialysis and the necessity of immunosuppressive drugs post-transplant.
Successful testing of the device has already been carried out in pigs over a week, revealing no discernible adverse effects or complications.
The University’s statement elaborates on the device’s quiet operation, akin to a pacemaker, without provoking an immune system response in the recipient.
The future vision for this innovation involves populating the bioreactor with various kidney cells responsible for vital functions such as maintaining fluid balance and releasing hormones to regulate blood pressure.
This will be complemented by a blood filtration device.
The ultimate goal is to develop a human-scale device that can significantly improve upon the limitations of dialysis, which serves as a life-sustaining measure for over 500,000 people in the United States alone following kidney failure.
The scarcity of kidney donors results in merely 20,000 transplants annually.
An implantable artificial kidney promises to be a game-changer in addressing this pressing issue.
The bioreactor is ingeniously designed to connect directly to blood vessels and veins, facilitating the passage of nutrients and oxygen, mirroring the function of a transplanted natural kidney.
Silicon membranes act as protective barriers, shielding the kidney cells from attacks by the recipient’s immune system.
In their experiments, the research team employed proximal tubule cells, responsible for water and salt regulation, as a test case.
Co-author H. David Humes, MD, from the University of Michigan, had previously utilized these cells to aid intensive care unit patients undergoing dialysis, yielding life-saving results.
This breakthrough in bioengineering offers new hope for those in need of kidney treatments and transplants, potentially revolutionizing the field of organ replacement therapy.