Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have created a new artificial kidney that could replace dialysis.
The human kidneys perform many important functions: they remove toxins and waste products from the blood, regulate blood pressure, electrolyte concentration and other body fluids. It is difficult to artificially reproduce these processes, patients have to go to dialysis – the process of removing excess water, solutes and toxins from the blood from people – but this is time-consuming and inconvenient.
The authors of the new work have created an artificial kidney that duplicates the main functions of a real organ, without the need to take immunosuppressive drugs or blood thinners.
An artificial kidney consists of a hemofilter, which is made of silicon semiconductor membranes: they remove waste products from the blood. The second part of the design is a bioreactor, which contains renal tubular cells that regulate water volume, electrolyte balance, and other metabolic functions. The membranes also protect these cells from attack by the cells of the patient’s immune system.
The new kidney connects to the patient’s two main arteries, which transport blood for filtration and carry filtered blood back into the body, as well as the bladder to excrete urine there.
The researchers note that the kidney does not need a pump or external power sources; blood pressure does all of these functions.