A few months ago, I posted the first part of this under the title, “Dialysis and Hope for #Kidney Patients” . There are some promising developments and even more exciting things to come. Here is an update…
I recently attended a conference hosted by the American Society of Nephrology which gathered nephrologists, researchers, professors, dialysis providers (Davita and Fresenius), hardware manufactures and engineers, and patients together for two solid days of discussion. The coolest part about this were the breakout sessions during which we brainstormed about taking dialysis out of the box. We discussed some other approaches that are currently in development such as the implanted artificial kidney, the wearable kidney, kidney regeneration, kidneys grown using stem cells, but we also opened up other methods to perform dialysis without needles. Yes, all this very theoretical and “pie in the sky” at the moment but it shows some promise. At some point in the future, we won’t have to rely on traditional methods of dialysis.
One point made by a speaker was that twenty years ago we said, “Twenty years from now…” and it is twenty years from now. So, where are we? Unfortunately, nothing tangible is on the market. The hope is that the next time we say, “Twenty years from now…”, we won’t be looking back on no significant developments in dialysis.
The more immediate future
I figure the track of development will be more progress on the wearable kidney while the research and development in some very promising areas continues, There are some massive hurdles to leap between now and coming out with these.
The Implanted Kidney
The next layer of development is the implanted kidney. There is some very promising work in this field. From Nephrology News and Issues: “Implantable artificial kidney project making progress”. This is a mechanical kidney that reproduces the function of a real kidney and is powered by the blood flow from the heart in a manner similar to the real kidneys. It uses nanotechnology microchips to mimic the filtering performed by the kidneys, The chips determine the “good” from the “bad” and send the bad cells along with the excess fluid into the urinary system to be removed from the body. The developer, William H. Fissell IV, MD, says he has, “a long list of dialysis patients eager to join a future human trial. Pilot studies of the silicon filters could start in patients by the end of 2017.” For more information about this, see “The Kidney Project”
Another approach to improve the lives of kidney patients is to revive kidneys damaged by disease, or regeneration. Fortunately the kidney is an organ that responds well to regeneration. From Harvard University, here’s a posting titled, “The Kidney Repair Shop” (a cute title for some very serious work). In this case, they are using stem cells to cause the tubules which are responsible for filtering in the kidney to regenerate.
As you can see from the picture above, this is no small task. The stems cells from a neonatal source (such as the umbilical cord of a recently born child) are combined with cells from the patient’s kidney to cause the kidney to repair itself. Cool, eh? However, this method requires a huge amount of research into how the cells interact and complex experimentation to mimic this process in the kidney.
3-D Printing a Kidney
There is some really exciting work being done that prints a kidney using a slush of materials and a 3-D printer to create a functioning kidney that can be implanted into a patient. From Gizmodo.com:
samples of human kidney cells are cultured in large volumes and blended with hydrogel, a water- and nutrition-rich material that makes up the 3D printed kidneys’ base. Afterwards, the printed cells can survive for up to four months in a lab thanks to this gel’s rich nutrient source.
You can read more about this in the article titled: “Scientists Can Now 3-D Print Transplantable, Living Kidneys”.
So, as you can see, there are very exciting developments going on in the kidney world. I’m excited anyway. In the meantime, I will continue my transplant efforts and hope that something miraculous comes along soon. Perhaps not in my lifetime but in yours.