Bioartificial Kidney Frees Patients from Dialysis Machines

For patients with kidney failure, dialysis is a double-edged sword: while offering the promise of sustained life, it is an invasive procedure that is also dangerous, sometimes causing bone disease, high-blood pressure and heart failure.

A new device is offering hope for those requiring dialysis. Currently being developed by The Kidney Project, this bioartificial kidney implant could free patients from dialysis machines and even kidney transplants. Last week, scientists won a $650,000 prize for the successful demonstration of a working prototype—moving the device a step closer to potentially changing the lives of millions of people suffering from life-threatening kidney diseases.

The effort is led by Shuvo Roy, a bioengineer and professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and William Fissell, a doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The project includes scientists, engineers and clinicians from across the United States.


The device includes a hemofilter made up of silicon semiconductor membranes that remove waste products from blood and a bioreactor containing renal tubule cells that regulate water volume, electrolyte balance and other metabolic functions

Our team engineered the artificial kidney to sustainably support a culture of human kidney cells without provoking an immune response,” Roy tells Jannat Un Nisa of the Wonderful Engineering website. “Now that we have demonstrated the feasibility of combining the hemofilter and bioreactor, we can focus on upscaling the technology for more rigorous preclinical testing, and ultimately, clinical trials.”

KidneyX, a public-private collaboration between the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services and the American Society of Nephrology, awarded the $650,000 prize to The Kidney Project after the demonstration showed that how the new bioartifical kidney implant works without the need for the immune-suppressing drugs or blood thinners typically required with transplants, reports Michael Irving of New Atlas.