The device, which would include thousands of microscopic filters as well as a bioreactor to mimic the metabolic and water-balancing roles of a real kidney, is being developed in a collaborative effort by engineers, biologists and physicians nationwide, led by Doctor Shuvo Roy, in the UCSF Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences.

The treatment has been proven to work for the sickest patients using a room-sized external model. Roy’s goal is to apply silicon fabrication technology, along with specially engineered compartments for live kidney cells, to shrink that large-scale technology into a device the size of a coffee cup. The device would then be implanted in the.

“This device is designed to deliver most of the health benefits of a kidney transplant, while addressing the limited number of kidney donors each year,” said Roy. “This could dramatically reduce the burden of renal failure for millions of people worldwide, while also reducing one of the largest costs in U.S. healthcare.”

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.

End-stage renal disease, or chronic kidney failure, affects more than 500,000 people per year in the United States alone, and currently is only fully treated with a kidney transplant. Yet transplants are difficult to obtain.

The implantable device aims to eradicate that problem. The two-stage system uses a hemofilter to remove toxins from the blood, while applying recent advances in tissue engineering to grow renal tubule cells to provide other biological functions of a healthy kidney. The process relies on the body’s blood pressure to perform filtration without needing pumps or an electrical power supply.

The first phase of the project, which has already been completed, focused on developing the technologies required to reduce the device to a size that could fit into the body and testing the individual components in animal models. In the second and current phase, the team is doing the sophisticated work needed to scale up the device for humans.; Source: University of California – San Francisco