An Artificial Kidney Using Nanotechnology

In our previous post, we showed you an external device to help diabetics automatically control their insulin levels, however this next technology could replace a failing organ forever. In the U.S. alone, each year 570,000 people suffer from chronic kidney failure. However, in 2011 there were only 16,812 kidneys available, leaving 92,000 patients on the waiting list, which is life-threatening.

Scientists at UCSF with 9 other labs are working on an artificial kidney that can allow patients to live without dialysis, and without a constant dose of immune suppressing drugs to avoid the transplanted kidneys from being rejected by the body. The FDA is backing up the project with its Innovation Pathway, a program designed to accelerate market reach of breakthrough technologies.

The artificial kidney works by using lab-grown cells and nanofilters that remove blood toxins. It needs no pumps or outside power supplies since the body’s own blood pressure will push for filtration. This leaves the patient with enough functionality to be independent of dialysis, allowing them complete freedom and mobility. A real kidney has no substitutes, but a transplanted kidney can last for 10 to 12 years. This artificial kidney can last indefinitely, with new cells implanted through injection every 2 years. Dr. Shuvo Roy, the leader behind the artificial kidney project, hopes clinical trials begin in 2016 and its market reach to be at the end of the decade, with a cost similar to that of a real transplant ~$30,000.


Shuvo Roy,** PhD** is a scientist at the University of California, San Francisco, whose research is dedicated to the development of MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) technology for biomedical applications with an emphasis on implantable devices.