Organs are hard to come by. Just ask the 92,000 patients with renal failure who weren't able to find a donor kidney last year.
Dialysis is only an imperfect solution to kidney failure, as it replicates the kidneys’ waste functions, but cannot carry out any of the kidneys’ endocrine functions. Dialysis also limits mobility and carries with it an infection risk at the dialysis site.
Researchers at UCSF and nine other labs are in the process of creating an artificial kidney that could be used in case a donor organ is not available and as a better alternative to dialysis. The artificial kidney is a combination of real cells and nanofilters, a “mechanical device combined with cells,” describes project lead Dr. Shuvo Roy.
The artificial kidney can last indefinitely, as long as new cells are injected into the kidney every two years or so. Although the artificial kidney can’t produce any of the compounds that a real kidney can, the artificial kidney gets the job of waste filtering done without any hassle to the patient.
Dr. Roy hopes that the kidney will be on clinical trial by 2016, meaning that the artificial kidney won’t go on the market for quite a few years yet.