Complex Made Simple

The Kidney Project signals end to dialysis

Called the Kidney Project, the new invention is an implantable bioartificial kidney aiming to provide patients with complete mobility and better physiological outcomes than dialysis

Kidney disease causes more deaths than breast cancer or prostate cancer The device supports a culture of human kidney cells without provoking an immune response Although kidney transplants are possible, there is always more demand than can be met

According to kidney.org, kidney disease causes more deaths than breast cancer or prostate cancer, affecting an estimated 37 million people in the U.S. or 15% of the adult population.

Chronic kidney failure, also known as end-stage renal disease, leads to the progressive and dangerous loss of kidney function.   

Now, a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) may have come up with an artificial kidney solution, according to a press release by the University of California San Francisco.

Called the Kidney Project, the new invention is an implantable bioartificial kidney and it recently earned a $650,000 prize from KidneyX for its first-ever demonstration of its functional prototype aiming to provide patients with complete mobility and better physiological outcomes than dialysis.

The device was engineered to sustainably support a culture of human kidney cells without provoking an immune response.

This means that kidney failure patients can forgo the often painful and uncomfortable dialysis procedures and the lifetime on immunosuppressant drugs that are taken when a kidney transplant is performed and which can have severe side effects.

In the last few years, The Kidney Project successfully tested the hemofilter, which removes waste products and toxins from the blood, and the bioreactor, which replicates other kidney functions, like the balance of electrolytes in the blood, in separate experiments.

The team married the two units into a scaled-down version of the artificial kidney.

The Kidney Project’s artificial kidney will not only replicate the high quality of life seen in kidney transplant recipients but also spare them from needing to take immunosuppressants.

A minority of patients live with transplanted kidneys, thanks to a pool of donated kidneys that are constantly in high demand. But even these patients must contend with a lifetime on immunosuppressant drugs that can have severe side effects.

Although kidney transplants are possible, there is always more demand than can be met, and the risk that the patient’s body might reject the organ is always a possibility. Dialysis remains the most viable option but the process is complicated and burdensome for the patients.

Another solution is presented with wearable artificial kidneys. Wearable artificial kidney refers to a transportable medical device that permits patients to experience the advantages of dialysis at home when carrying out their daily work.

According to a Facts and Factors market research report, the global wearable artificial kidney market size is expected to grow from $7.34 billion in 2019 to reach $16.4bn by 2026, at 12.2% annual CAGR growth during the forecast period of 2020-2026.