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London: An artificial kidney implant that would work as well as a natural organ is in the offing. The first prototype of the device just unveiled by the US researchers could do away with the need for dialysis or donor organs.
The device comprises thousands of microscopic filters to remove toxins from the blood and a bio-reactor to mimic the metabolic and water-balancing roles of a real kidney.
The implant is being developed jointly by engineers, biologists and physicians led by Shuvo Roy at the University of California, San Francisco.
The treatment has already been proven to work for the sickest patients using a room-sized external model, reports IANS.
The process relies on the body's blood pressure to perform filtration without needing pumps or an external electrical power supply.
Roy plans to apply silicon fabrication technology, along with specially engineered compartments for live kidney cells, to shrink the current device to the size of a coffee cup.
Tissue engineering will be used to grow renal tubule cells to provide other biological functions of a healthy kidney.
This would remove the need for immune suppressant medications after it was implanted, allowing the patient to live a more normal life.
"This could dramatically reduce the burden of renal failure for millions of people worldwide."
The alternative treatment for kidney failure is dialysis. A patient will have their blood filtered in three long sessions a week. It is exhausting for patients and only replaces 13 per cent of kidney function.
There are just over 45,000 adult patients receiving dialysis in Britain. Only 35 per cent of patients survive for more than five years with this treatment.
The team has established the feasibility of an implantable model in animal models and plans to be ready for clinical trials in five to seven years.