The lives of thousands of patients suffering from kidney failure could be improved by the development of an artificial kidney by researchers at UCSF. The kidney would provide the same function as dialysis, fulfiling the job of the kidneys and filtering toxins form the bloodstream.
Kidney failure is an increasing problem and there is no cure for final stage renal failure. Patients must undergo kidney transplant surgery to replace the damaged organ. Due to the waiting list for kidney donors and the severity of the condition, patients waiting for a transplant must spend sometimes up to 5 hours a day hooked to a dialysis machine. After a patient undergoes kidney transplant surgery, there is a risk the body will reject the transplanted organ. To prevent this patients must take immunosuppresant drugs for the rest of their lives. Even with immunosuppressant drugs, 20-30% of donor kidneys are rejected causing secondary kidney failure. UCSF researchers note that immunosuppresant drugs would not be necessary for patients treated with an artificial kidney and the body would not reject the "organ".
During dialysis treatment, blood is passed through an external electronic device where the blood is cleaned and filtered to remove toxins before being passed back into the bloodstream. Patients must undergo this treatment 3-5 sessions per week for up to 5 hours at a time. The artificial kidney, developed by a team of physicians, biologists and engineers, does not require electricity to pump the blood through the filtration system. The artificial device uses the body's natural blood pressure to push the blood through the filtration, and according to trials conducted using a room size version of the replica organ, the technology is successful.
The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is recognised as a leading institute for medical breakthroughs and doctors hope that within 10 years the technology will have been scaled down to a size that allows the technology to be implanted into humans. If successful, the artificial kidney could not only save thousands of lives but could also significantly reduce the cost of treating renal failure.
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