OCT 11, 2023 10:00 AM PDT

Implantable Bioreactor: A Step Towards Artificial Kidneys?

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

A team of researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have designed and develop a new type of human implantable reactor that could be a key step towards the development of artificial kidneys, which researchers have been working towards for years. The new reactor is described in a recent article published in Nature Communications.

Kidney disease is an increasingly common problem, which, for many, unfortunately ends in kidney failure (meaning kidneys are no longer functioning in the way they need to adequately support bodily functions, such as filtering the blood and removing toxins from the body. People with kidney failure often have two options for treatment: dialysis or a kidney transplant. However, there are significant limitations to each. Dialysis is costly and time-consuming. Transplants are, well, major surgical procedures. It is also difficult to find a matching donor kidney. And even when one is found, patients need to undergo rigorous immunosuppression therapy to prevent the body from rejecting the new kidney. As a result, researchers have been exploring how to design artificial kidneys to overcome these challenges.

The new implantable reactor designed by UCSF researchers could help researchers in the quest towards an artificial kidney. It includes cells found in kidneys but protects them from the immune system by shielding them with a silicon membrane, allowing blood to move through, allowing it to perform the function of those kidney cells. Researchers have shown that the cells in their implant survived in pig tests for up to 7 days. In the future, researchers hope their implant could incorporate other kidney cells to mimic the function of the kidney, which is the ultimate goal.

The cells researchers used in their implant was were proximal tubule cells, which helps the body regulate water levels. The device connects to nearby blood vessels to enable blood to flow through the reactor. The key goal was to prove that the cells could survive in this new implant without the need for immunosuppressants which are often needed when a new kidney is transplanted into the body.

Sources: Medgadget; Nature Communications

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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