Are artificial organs in our future?
Scientists are joining forces to develop an implantable artificial kidney in hopes of expediting the transplant waiting list for those with end stage renal disease (ESRD). The Kidney Project is developing the artificial kidney to have two parts, a hemofilter and a bioreactor. Together, the artificial organ could replicate the kidney’s natural function of filtering waste from the blood.
Scientists are designing the kidney with a bio-friendly molecule coating that will prevent blood clots from forming post-transplant.
“This is a very interesting and innovative idea. However, there also needs to be a mechanism for volume regulation: just like human kidneys which produce urine to remove excess water from the body, they also sense the blood pressure and volume status. This ensures that less urine is produced during states of dehydration,” says Dr. Deepak Mital, transplant surgeon at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
“There are also technical issues related to clotting of the tubes carrying blood to the artificial kidney long-term. These tubes can also get infected, as can the tube connected to the urinary bladder. With the resolution of these issues, the artificial kidney can go a long way to help patients with kidney failure,” says Dr. Mital.
While this artificial kidney will be able to reduce the amount of people on the transplant list, it also aims to replace dialysis costs. Dialysis is not a permanent solution to ESRD and can limit an individual’s life expectancy to up to five years.
Additionally, many people who undergo a traditional kidney transplant cannot afford the immunosuppressive drugs required to keep the transplant viable according to The Kidney Project’s leader. In early trials, antirejection drugs were not needed for the artificial transplant, therefore providing a cheaper transplant option.