Shuvo Roy, at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has assembled a multi-disciplinary team from across the US to develop an implantable artificial kidney. The device—about the size of a large coffee mug—would out-perform today’s dialysis machines that are roughly the size of a refrigerator.
Sandy Kleffman, writing for the San Jose Mercury News, reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as selected the device for its Innovation Pathway fast-track approval process. As such, animal testing could begin in 2016 with human trials beginning as early as 2017, and use as a routine therapy as early as 2020. “We realized we could achieve a dialysis filter that would be one-twentieth the size of what’s commercially available, and would require so little power that we could drive it just off blood pressure alone,” Roy, a UCSF associate professor of bioengineering and therapeutic sciences tells Kleffman. The tiny dialysis filter is assembled using silicon nanotechnology.
According to Kleffman’s interpretation, Roy’s device would be better than traditional hemodialysis, as “blood brought into one side of the device passes through a silicon filter that removes toxins, sugars, salts and water, creating an ‘ultrafiltrate.’ The filtrate would move to the other side of the device, where actual kidney cells would reabsorb the water, sugars and salts back into the bloodstream, mimicking a real kidney’s metabolic and water-balancing roles in a way that dialysis cannot. The team obtains the kidney cells from organs rejected for transplantation.”
Roy’s assumption is that immuno-suppressant drug therapy would not be needed because the kidney cells contained within the device would be separated from the patient’s bloodstream, making rejection much less likely.