Researchers develop artificial kidney to replace dialysis for patients

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Researchers have developed a device that may have patients saying goodbye to dialysis for good.

More than 740,000 Americans have kidney failure. Out of those, about 200,000 are eligible for a kidney transplant. That means more than 500,000 Americans have no other option besides being tied to a dialysis machine for several hours a day three times a week. Twelve people die each day waiting for a kidney transplant.

Your kidneys are about the size of a fist and filter about 35 gallons of blood per day, and they are vital to a healthy life.

“The kidney does two major things. One is to clean the toxins that accumulate in the body as well as the fluid that accumulates in the body and get rid of them,” explained Alp Ikizler, MD, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

But when your kidneys fail, your only option is to start dialysis and wait until a kidney is available.

“We have more than 150,000 patients starting on dialysis and we could only offer 30 to 40,000 kidney transplants a year,” elaborated Dr. Ikizler.

So researchers are developing an artificial kidney that may give patients an opportunity for a dialysis-free life. The device has two parts.

“We have a filter that separates waste products and salt and water from blood, and we have a bioreactor of cultured kidney cells and concentrate that filtrate down into a manageable amount of fluid,” described William H. Fissell, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Doing the same work as a healthy kidney, but in an implanted device that is about the same size. It will operate around the clock. Not deterring people from traveling or enjoying certain activities.

Dr. Fissell explained, “It’s hard to travel if you’re a dialysis patient. You have to find a dialysis unit wherever you’re going.”

For Fissell, this research is also personal.

“I have kidney disease in my family. I have kidney disease,” shared Dr. Fissell.

Even though he hasn’t needed dialysis, he’s working on the next steps to get this device to dialysis patients who will need it the most.

Dr. Fissell is working with professor Shuvo Roy at UCSF. If sufficient funding is obtained, they hope to have this device in human clinical trials within two years to help those in kidney failure. For every person who gets a kidney transplant, five patients do not.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

RELATED: Texas lawmakers pushing for better way to diagnose kidney disease