Researchers Develop New Artificial Kidney That Eliminates Need For Immunosuppressive Drugs

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Researchers have made progress in creating an implantable artificial kidney that mimics natural kidney functions. This innovation has shown promise in pig trials, as it didn’t trigger an immune system reaction, a common issue in organ transplants. This development offers hope for patients seeking an alternative to dialysis.

New approach to eliminate need for immunosuppressant drugs

This groundbreaking innovation possesses the capability to eliminate not just the necessity for dialysis, a treatment that substantially impacts patients’ quality of life, but also the requirement for potent immunosuppressive medications frequently prescribed following a kidney transplantation.

In the US, approximately 37 million individuals have chronic kidney disease, with dialysis or transplantation required only in advanced stages. Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) have developed an implantable bioreactor containing kidney cells. These cells function like a pacemaker for the heart, operating silently without causing an immune response.

Dr. Shuvo Roy, a bioengineering professor at UCSF’s School of Pharmacy, is leading the project to create a bioartificial kidney that replicates key kidney functions safely. This innovation aims to enhance the treatment of kidney disease, making it more effective and comfortable for patients.

Membranes in bioreactor prevent attacks on kidney cells

The researchers are working on scaling up the device for human use to improve current dialysis methods. The bioreactor they’ve developed connects to the recipient’s blood vessels, allowing the passage of nutrients and oxygen, mimicking the function of a transplanted kidney. The silicon membranes in the bioreactor prevent attacks of the kidney cells from the recipient’s immune system.

The scientists observed the well-being of both the transplanted kidney cells and the host animals for a week after the transplantation, using proximal tubule cells, which play a role in water regulation, as their experimental model. The results indicated that both the implanted kidney cells and the recipient animals were in good condition during this period.

Dr Roy said that they were looking to demonstrate that a functional bioreactor doesn’t need immunosuppressant medications and they managed to show it. Considering there were no complications the researchers are now ready to iterate to reach all kidney functions.

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